Gatwick Airport has launched a fresh attack on rival Heathrow, claiming the building of a third runway could violate air quality rules, potentially delaying the project and harming the environment.
Gatwick’s claim came after it said it found air quality on its site to have improved in recent times.
A new report showed that nitrogen dioxide levels at the airport had fallen from 32 to 31 mgs per cu m during 2014, still “well below” the legal limit of 40.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Today’s positive figures are further proof that Gatwick expansion can be delivered lawfully.
“Gatwick has operated within legal air quality limits for more than a decade and can guarantee that it will continue to meet these legal limits even with a second runway.
“Air quality is more relevant to the expansion debate than it has ever been. Illegal air quality has stopped expansion at Heathrow in the past.
“Given it is worse than ever today, it is hard to see how expansion could legally go ahead there with millions more car journeys - yet alone all the construction traffic.”
Heathrow responded by saying that it would meet air quality rules, adding road traffic is a much bigger polluter.
“The Airports Commission Air Quality analysis has confirmed Heathrow can expand within air quality limits. We understand air quality is a real concern for local communities and an issue London needs to tackle urgently, and will continue to reduce our impacts,” said a spokesman for the airport.
This summer, the Airports Commission recommended Heathrow ahead of Gatwick as the preferred location for airport expansion in London.
The Sir Howard Davies-headed commission cited economic benefits as the main reason for expansion at Heathrow.
Last month, Gatwick criticised the commission calling its recommendation “biased”.
It said the Commission had not considered the many risks associated with building a third runway at Heathrow.