BAA Accused of 'Moving the Goal Posts'

Pressure group threatens legal challenge in Europe over Heathrow Air Pollution Figures

Pressure group HACAN ClearSkies has accused BAA of moving the goal posts over pollution levels at Heathrow. HACAN ClearSkies claims that the new BAA figures, due to be released on Monday throw up more questions than they answer. BAA is set to claim that the Government has overestimated the number people that would be affected by pollution levels above the EU legal limit if a 3rd runway was built at Heathrow. The Department for Transport, when it published its consultation on the option of a 3rd runway earlier this year, admitted that up to 35,000 could be affected.

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, said, "Just how many times can goal posts be moved? BAA appears to have abandoned the method it used to assess air pollution levels at the T5 Inquiry. We can only assume this is because they now find them inconvenient. This sounds more like the sharp practice of a street corner boy than a scientific investigation by a responsible company."

Stewart added, "If the Government accepts these new figures without explanation, there is every chance we will challenge them in Europe. Under a key European Directive, the Government is required to describe clearly the methods it has used to predict the effects of a development on the environment.

HACAN ClearSkies posed the following questions about the new figures :

� Why has BAA changed the forecasts it presented to the Heathrow Terminal 5 Inquiry? BAA's modelled forecasts presented to the Inspector showed that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide around Heathrow in 2016 would exceed levels permitted by Directive 1999/30/EC by 8% with four terminals and 21% with 5 terminals.

� Why did the Government not challenge those BAA forecasts presented to the T5 Inquiry? The Government accepted the Inspector's assessment of BAA forecasts in his report: "Having considered all of the issues related to the prediction of concentrations, I am satisfied that the model does provide an acceptable basis for the assessment of the effects of Terminal 5 and its associated road schemes. It is subject to a range of uncertainties but I find no reason to believe that these are more likely to produce overestimates than underestimates."

HACAN believes that the Government would also need to answer questions were it to accept BAA's new figures:

� Why has the Government accepted the estimates of an interested party over its own figures? BAA has not adopted a public position over a 3rd runway, but stands to gain income if a third runway was built. It also has a vested interest in ensuring that nitrogen dioxide levels at the existing airport do not exceed the EC legal limit in 2009.

� Will the Government subject the BAA forecasts to peer review?

� Will the Government abandon its own model of measuring nitrogen dioxide for all other aspects of its work if it goes for the BA forecasts over Heathrow?

BAA will publish its response to the consultation on the Regional Air Studies on Monday 12th May 2003.

May 9, 2003

HACAN ClearSkies