Heathrow operator will accept new independent body that can limit flights for environmental purposes

BAA has said it will accept an independent body with the power to cap flights for environmental purposes, should a third runway at Heathrow airport be approved.

The airport operator also wants to be allowed to use existing runways for simultaneous take-offs and landings, using the extra capacity to cut delays instead of increasing flight numbers.

Environmental campaigners have vehemently opposed the proposed third runway, citing the huge impact it would have on thousands of homes surrounding the airport, in terms of noise pollution and increased emissions.

BAA said that if the proposals are approved, it will agree to the creation of an independent assessor with the power to prevent increases in flight numbers if the agreed limits on noise and pollution are breached.

But opponents have criticised the plans, pointing to previous promises made and broken by the owner of Heathrow in 1999, when it agreed it would not ask for a third runway if the fifth terminal received approval.

Should the new runway be approved, it could be in operation by 2020.