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Heathrow plans mean schoolchildren face illegal pollution levels

The Guardian logo The Guardian 19/06/2019 Sandra Laville
a plane parked on the side of a building: A plane landing at Heathrow airport in west London. © PA A plane landing at Heathrow airport in west London.

A primary school is to be demolished and rebuilt in an area where pollution levels regularly breach legal limits in order to build the third runway at Heathrow, the airport’s master plan reveals.

Three other primary schools will be left just metres from the new runway, campaigners against the expansion said. The playground of one of the schools will border the new runway fence if the controversial plan to build a third runway goes ahead.

Campaigners say the relocation of Harmondsworth primary from the village of Harmondsworth, where it is surrounded by fields and farmland, to an area on the Stockley bypass in West Drayton, where air pollution monitors regularly breach legal limits, will harm children’s health.

Video: Heathrow Airport Expansion Consultation introduction (The Independent)

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Details of the relocation of the school are included in the airport’s master plan released on Tuesday.

The document states: “Harmondsworth primary school will be displaced by the new runway. Land to the north of the M4 highway on Stockley Road has been identified as a suitable replacement site for the school as it is within the catchment area and has appropriate road access and connections to green areas for recreational purposes. This site also has the benefit of being able to accommodate early delivery to enable vacation of the existing facility in time for the commencement of construction of the new runway.”

Rob Barnstone, coordinator of Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: “How can it be allowed for a primary school to be relocated in an area with already high exposure to toxic emissions to make way for 260,000 more flights, emitting more emissions in its former location.

A demonstrator wears a model plane on his hat as members of Greenpeace protest in Parliament Square, London, against plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. © Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images A demonstrator wears a model plane on his hat as members of Greenpeace protest in Parliament Square, London, against plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

“We already know that emissions from Heathrow-related traffic and planes have an impact on children’s learning and exam performance. Yet the airport seem quite content in doing so. Children deserve better.”

Details of the impact of the new runway on local primary schools are contained in the document Heathrow published at the start of a 12-week consultation on its expansion.

If it goes ahead, the expansion will leave three other schools – Cherry Lane primary, Heathrow primary and William Byrd primary – just metres from the new runway. The playground of Cherry Lane school will run up against the runway fence, according to details contained in the plan.

Gallery: 27 secrets you should know before you get to the airport (Love Exploring)

Barnstone said the impact of noise on childrens’ learning was well documented.

Geraldine Nicholson, who works in a local school and is part of the campaign to stop the expansion of the airport, said: “Considering one in three children inhale toxic air in the UK, is this government prepared to do this to our children in all of these schools? The planes will be literally a few metres above the playground.”

As well as demolishing a school, the third runway building will involved rerouting natural waterways, moving the M25 into a tunnel and creating a carpark for 50,000 vehicles.

School teacher and kids work on class project, elevated view © Monkey Business Images/REX/Shutterstock School teacher and kids work on class project, elevated view

The land grab will far exceed the boundaries of the new airport during its development, with construction and earthwork sites set up. An estimated 20m cubic metres of earth will be moved – more than 1m lorry loads.

Friends of the Earth is continuing its legal challenge against the expansion, after losing a high court case in the spring.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is also appealing against the decision of the high court to rule against five challenges.

File photo dated 05/06/18 of a plane approaching Heathrow Airport in west London viewed from the village of Longford. Labour's leadership opposes plans for a third runway at Heathrow but will give its MPs a free vote on the proposals, the party has announced. File photo dated 05/06/18 of a plane approaching Heathrow Airport in west London viewed from the village of Longford. Labour's leadership opposes plans for a third runway at Heathrow but will give its MPs a free vote on the proposals, the party has announced.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “A third runway at Heathrow would be an environmental disaster.

Given the impact that expansion would have on our city … we have filed the necessary court document to commence the appeal process so that the mayor can continue standing up for Londoners by opposing the third runway.”

Heathrow is urging people to take part in the consultation. Emma Gilthorpe, the executive director for expansion at Heathrow, urged local people to participate in the consultation and make their views heard.

Protestors demonstrating against plans for a third runway at London Heathrow Airport outside the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. Protestors demonstrating against plans for a third runway at London Heathrow Airport outside the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We will be taking consultation views on board before a final plan for expansion is subjected to a strict planning inspectorate process in 2020. We want to further mitigate the environmental impacts of this project, that’s why we are inviting the public, local authorities, schools and experts to engage with us and have their say on our masterplan.

“We are taking steps to improve local air quality by introducing our own Ultra Low Emission Zone, improving public transport links for communities surrounding the airport and enhancing green space with environmental projects including the 20km [12.4-mile] Green Loop.”

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