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UK's Heathrow says will limit environmental impact of new runway

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Britain's Heathrow Airport, seeking government permission to build a new runway, said it would comply with an extended ban on night flights and meet European air quality rules if the project gets the go-ahead.

[LONDON] Britain's Heathrow Airport, seeking government permission to build a new runway, said it would comply with an extended ban on night flights and meet European air quality rules if the project gets the go-ahead.

Heathrow is operating at full capacity and has been campaigning for 25 years for the green light to build a third runway, but political wrangling, objections from local residents in west London and environmentalists has prevented expansion.

A government-appointed Airports Commission last year named Heathrow, Britain's busiest airport, as the preferred site for a new runway in London, setting out a number of conditions to help win over opponents.

Heathrow faces competition from Britain's second busiest airport Gatwick, south of London, which also wants to build a new runway.

Transport minister Patrick McLoughlin said in February that a decision on airport expansion could come by the end of July.

The issue is a divisive one for Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative government, already split over next month's referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Heathrow said on Wednesday that it would comply with all 11 conditions set out by the Airports Commission, including a key requirement on air quality which stated that new flights would only be permitted if air quality did not breach EU limits.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye wrote to Prime Minister Cameron to say that the airport's plan to comply with the Commission's conditions should help him back the project.

"We have acted now to let you and your government make the right choice. It will enable you to choose Heathrow," Heathrow said the CEO wrote in his letter to Mr Cameron.

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

Under the proposals, Heathrow said that night flights would begin from 0530 local time, an hour later than at present, offering some respite to residents disturbed by the noise of planes flying over their homes.

British opposition Labour lawmaker Mary Creagh, who chairs parliament's Environmental Audit Committee, said that the airport needed to do more. "Heathrow's proposals to tackle air pollution need to go much further much faster. Promises on future rail links and air pollution charges are 7-10 years away," she said in a statement.

REUTERS