Outgoing Mayor Boris Johnson has warned that a third runway at Heathrow will condemn thousands of London children to noise levels which are “proven to affect their level of reading and memory”.
Last year an independent commission backed an extra runway at the airport subject to “legally binding” limits on noise levels but opponents say the restrictions would be insufficient to limit the impact on those living under the flightpath.
Ministers were expected to make a final decision by the end of 2015 but this has been put off until this Summer, a move Labour claims is aimed at avoiding a row with Tory mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith who opposes any further expansion at the airport.
The Department for Transport says the government “has accepted the case for airport expansion in the south-east” but “will undertake a package of further work” before deciding whether to approve expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick.
This work will include reviewing the Airports Commission’s air quality analysis and drawing up a “package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people and the environment.”
However Mr Johnson today said that there’s “no silver bullet for Heathrow’s noise nightmare” and claimed that “the only credible solution” to London and Britain’s shortage of air capacity is the construction of a new hub airport to the east of the capital.
Mr Johnson made his comments as he launched a major new report setting out what he said was “the astonishing cost to the health of Londoners of a third runway at Heathrow.”
According to the report, 24 more schools and 43,000 school children would be exposed to “the din of jet engines” if a runway was given the go-ahead and as many as a million people could be impacted by noise associated with the runway.
The report also claims that the long term health effects of exposure of noise generated by a third runway, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, dementia, would cost the economy “£20 to 25bn over 60 years”.
In one of his final interventions as mayor before election rules force City Hall into a media blackout, Mr Johnson said: “There is no silver bullet for the noise nightmare of a third runway at Heathrow and any approval of expansion would clearly result in decades of legal challenges.
He added: “Its cramped urban location simply cannot accommodate the kind of airport this country requires to compete on the global stage and the cost to the taxpayer of necessary road and rail connections would be huge, however well disguised. That means the Government has a bold decision to make – but not a difficult one.
“They must surely finally recognise that the only long term vision that sustains our economy and safeguards our health is to build a four runway hub airport at the Thames Estuary or Stagnated.”
Last year all leading candidates to succeed Mr Johnson called on the Government to refuse permission for a third runway.