London Mayor reaffirms his R3 opposition
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has reaffirmed his strong opposition to a third runway at Heathrow: “Expanding Heathrow would condemn Londoners to unacceptable noise and air pollution, and there is insufficient infrastructure in place to support this proposal in any case.”
Sadiq Khan was responding to a letter from Twickenham MP Dr Tania Mathias, who asked about his stance on Heathrow expansion on behalf of a group of cross-party London MPs, Assembly Members and council leaders.
He left them in no doubt that he would be fighting against a third runway.
The letter, dated 23 June, is yet another indication that the new London Mayor is deeply concerned about the damage being caused to the health of Londoners by air pollution. There is no doubt that a third runway would increase pollution, regardless of any pledges, conditions or promises that are offered by Heathrow or the government.
On 13 May, less than a week after he was sworn in as Mayor, Sadiq Khan announced plans to crack down on air pollution, saying his own adult-onset asthma has increased his commitment to tackle a problem that accounts for the premature deaths of almost 10,000 people in the UK capital each year.
In an emailed statement he said: “I know from personal experience that the city’s air is damaging people’s health as I only recently started suffering from asthma as an adult. In the past, London has only responded after an emergency, like with the Clean Air Act, which followed the great London smogs of the 1950s. But I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to match the scale of the challenge.”
Even without the pollution generated by a third runway, air quality is so bad that Khan plans to extend London’s “Ultra-Low Emission Zone” to include the North and South Circular roads, increase the congestion charge in central London for the most polluting vehicles and give the green light to a Transport for London scheme to scrap diesel vehicles.
As air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in these areas.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that ambient air pollution, made of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health – causing more than 3 million premature deaths around the world every year.
Shortly before Sadiq Khan’s statement, the WHO named and shamed the towns and cities in Britain with the poorest air quality (including London). Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, reacted to the list by saying:
‘It is clear from this report that the UK is facing an air pollution crisis. Unfortunately, the Government’s response so far has been inadequate. Swift action must be taken to reduce pollution levels in the UK and protect our lung health.’