Consultation announced on Heathrow extension

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly sparked criticism today with the publication of a consultation paper into expansion plans for Heathrow Airport.

The paper - Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport - investigates whether a third runway and sixth terminal could be built at the airport.

If approved, the plans would enable the airport to handle 222,000 extra flights a year by 2030.

The current capacity is 480,000 flights a year.

In a statement supporting the consultation launch, Kelly said: "Heathrow supports 170,000 jobs, billions of pounds of British exports and is our main gateway to the global economy.

"But for too long it has operated at nearly full capacity, with relatively minor problems causing severe delays to passengers."

"If nothing changes, Heathrow's status as a world-class airport will be gradually eroded," she added.

But campaign group HACAN ClearSkies said it was concerned that areas under the new runway will not have a consultation exhibition.

It also suggested that government forecasts of reduced noise levels in some areas and a nominal pollution risk are flawed.

HACAN chair John Stewart said: "Ruth Kelly is in wonderland if she thinks that all this expansion can take place and noise levels will be lower and only 22 homes will be affected by illegal air pollution levels."

The consultation will run until 27 February 2008.

Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport is available by clicking here.

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