By Jonas Jamarik
In a recent tweet, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hit back against the planning inspectorate’s attempts to overrule his intended environmentally-friendly planning policies: “The government want me to allow fracking in London, back Heathrow Expansion and look into building on the Green Belt – none of which I am willing to do. It’s deeply disappointing they don’t share London’s priorities of tackling climate change and air pollution.”
One of the biggest issues is the expansion of Heathrow Airport. The proposed plans suggest a new, third runway be built which would increase capacity to an estimated 132 million people. This would essentially be the same as adding the equivalent of another Gatwick Airport to Heathrow. Critics of the runway argue that a construction of that size would bring many problems including worse traffic, increased noise pollution, and heightened air pollution. The expansion would also take place in a highly-populated area, effectively demolishing thousands of homes.
This plan was backed by a majority of the House of Commons, with 296 MPs approving the plan. The case against this expansion has been brought to the High Court by Mr Khan, London residents, and multiple non-profit organizations and charities including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
In his London plan, Mr Khan stressed the importance of the city’s green belt, an area of protected land within and surrounding the city which is protected by law. He described the greenbelt “the lungs of the capital” and saying it “must be protected.” The demand in London for new housing is approximately 66,000 homes a year, but the Mayor insists these should not be built in the green belt.
Another issue causing tension is fracking, a controversial way of extracting natural gas from the Earth. This method is known to pose a significant risk to public health, as well as posing a risk of contaminating water supplies and contributing to air pollution. After reviewing the Mayor’s draft, the government’s Planning Inspectors want him to withdraw his objections to the Heathrow expansion, to permit fracking, and to change his commitment to the green belt. They want the potential for building in the green belt to be re-examined, and for construction to be allowed in “special circumstances.” They also say this ban is “out of line with national policy.”
In addition, they have said the Mayor’s opposition to fracking is “out of line with the national policy of allowing safe and sustainable gas extraction,” adding that it is “unlikely that there is any suitable geology for fracking in London.” Lastly, they found his reaction to the expansion of Heathrow to be at odds with the government’s support of the construction. In response, Mr Khan will write to the Government before the end of this year, after which the government will have 6 weeks to respond.