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Aerial view of London Heathrow airport

Air travel and the environment

Flying makes a major contribution to global heating and climate change.

For this reason and others, the Diocese is opposed to the expansion of Heathrow Airport. At the foot of this page, you can download the Diocese’s responses to consultations on successive proposals.

Air travel

Aviation is estimated to contribute about 2% of world emissions. That percentage is also rising fast.

Nor does it take account of emissions at altitude, which are likely to multiply the total by 2-4 times.

Oxides of nitrogen contribute a critical fraction of emissions from aviation.

Flying too much is well able, by itself, to defeat efforts to deal with climate change.

We encourage church members to consider alternatives to non-essential flying, and to budget it in line with other carbon emissions.

That means we need to save 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (compared to 2005).

It isn’t enough just to ‘offset’, eg through tree planting. Offsetting should be thought of as a supplement, over and above the savings we make on air miles!

Heathrow Airport


Proposals to expand Heathrow were first mooted publicly in 1990. The third runway was formally recommended by the Government in 2003.

At that time, the London Diocesan Advisory Committee submitted a major report called ‘One Church: report in support of the objection by the London Diocesan Advisory Committee to the expansion of London Heathrow airport in the Parish of Harmondsworth, Middlesex’.

Later, Heathrow’s proposals were altered and consulted on again. The Diocese’s 2009 ‘Report on the Expansion of Heathrow Airport’ was adopted by Diocesan Synod. This report firmly opposed the development.

The project was abandoned for a time, and the then Prime Minister famously even ruled it out; but business began lobbying again in its favour.

In 2015, the Government’s Airports Commission concluded by opting for Heathrow Runway 3 after all. The current Mayor of London, and several local authorities, remain opposed.

In 2018, Parliament approved the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), which sets out the criteria for approval by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

Consultations and responses

In October 2016, the new government (following the Airports Commission’s report), announced that it had decided to implement a new scheme for the third runway, sited to the north-west of the existing airport. The Diocese of London partnered with the Dioceses of Southwark and Oxford in a combined response to the consultation. This presented many questions and challenges on moral, social, pastoral and environmental aspects. This response was adopted by the bishops’ councils of all three dioceses and submitted in early 2017.

Later the government consulted again on aspects of the scheme, and the Diocese submitted a further response.

From 2018-2019, Heathrow Airport itself has consulted twice so far, on its design proposals, ahead of its submission to the NIC.

Reports were submitted in March 2018 and March 2019, on behalf of the Diocese and Diocesan Synod. These responses continued to oppose the development, expressing grave concerns about its consequences.

National airports policy

There has been a widespread assumption that expansion has been given the go-ahead by the Government and Parliament. That is not correct. The decision was made in Parliament to support in principle, but subject to the criteria in the ANPS. These criteria have to be applied by the NIC when determining whether to grant planning permission. The planning application to the NIC has yet to be submitted.

In June 2019, Heathrow launched a further (third) consultation on its masterplan, envisaging constriction and development to start in 2022 and complete in 2050. The Diocese’s response will be published later in 2019.

Diocesan policy

Meanwhile the Diocese remains firmly opposed to Heathrow expansion in principle. This policy has the authority of resolutions which were overwhelmingly supported by Diocesan Synod.

Below you can download reports referred to above.


Global heating and climate change
Transport air travel and the environment.

Back to Environment and Sustainability.


HAL consultation 2 response.pdf  Download  
2009 report on proposed expansion of Heathrow  Download  
2017 response to Department of Transport consultations on Heathrow expansion  Download  
2017 response to DoT re-opened consultation  Download  
2018 response to consultations by Heathrow Airport  Download  

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