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MPs advise against Heathrow expansion until conditions met

The British government should not give final approval to the expansion of London’s Heathrow [FGPTOW.UL] airport until it shows it accepts and will comply with environmental conditions, a parliamentary committee said in a report.

Members of parliament on the Environmental Audit Committee said Heathrow must show it can reconcile expansion with a commitment to introduce a ban on night flights, a legal commitment on air quality and demonstrate that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than a two-runway Heathrow.

“The communities living near to the roads around Heathrow already put up with noise and extra traffic, it would be quite unacceptable to subject them to a potentially significant deterioration in air quality as well,” committee chairman Huw Irranca-Davies said in a statement.

A government-appointed Airports Commission named Heathrow as the preferred site for London airport expansion in July, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will decide by the end of the year whether a new 23 billion-pound ($35 billion) runway should be built there.

Heathrow said the committee was right to look at the environmental impact of expansion but said its plan would make Heathrow quieter and served by improved public transport links which would help improve air quality.

The airport has been campaigning for years to be allowed to add a third runway because it is operating at full capacity but it faces opposition from some prominent politicians, local residents in west London and environmental groups.

Activists opposed to the expansion of Heathrow blocked an approach tunnel last week, bringing traffic chaos to Europe’s busiest airport.

The final decision on expansion poses problems for Cameron who pledged to voters before an election in 2010 that he would not allow a third runway, “no ifs, no buts”. His party’s candidate for next May’s London Mayoral election is also opposed to expansion of Heathrow.

Gatwick airport, Heathrow’s rival to the south of the capital, said the parliamentary committee’s report brought into question the basis for the Airport Commission’s recommendation.

“The Committee questions the entire legal basis of the Airports Commission report on air quality and highlights the many other environmental hurdles facing Heathrow expansion,” said Gatwick’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate.

“It is increasingly clear only expansion at Gatwick is legal and can actually happen.”

Heathrow’s largest shareholder is Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial (FER.MC). Other partners include Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

(Reporting By Aurindom Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Michael Holden in London; Editing by Stephen Addison)

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