BAA to accept air quality watchdog at Heathrow

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The Independent Online

BAA will accept the appointment of an independent watchdog to monitor noise and air quality if the airport operator's plans for a third runway at Heathrow are approved.

Amid multiple complaints against the proposed expansion, critics are concerned that increased capacity will not be used to take the pressure off existing facilities, but will be soaked up by increasing the number of flights.

BAA said yesterday that it will only increase flights when it has improved punctuality and reliability to accepted levels, and only within agreed environmental limits. Colin Matthews, the BAA chief executive, said: "Although the economic case [for expansion of Heathrow] remains compelling, we understand that we can only increase the number of flights if we can safeguard levels of noise and air quality.

"By calling on an independent assessor to scrutinise the airport's performance against these limits, we are providing an uncompromising assurance that we will operate Heathrow within the limits laid down by government."

The final decision about the third runway will be made next month. The scheme is virulently opposed by local residents and green campaigners.