SOARING Heathrow passenger numbers could mean turbulence ahead for those against a third runway.

BAA boss Colin Matthews last week used record September figures of 6.3million passengers to press the case for expanding Europe’s busiest airport.

There has been an overall increase of 0.6% from September last year, with 14% more passengers from Brazil and 5.9% more Chinese.

The only fall was in Indian visitors, going down 7%.

HACAN ClearSkies’ chairman John Stewart agrees that connecting with growing economies is beneficial but does not think a third runway is a worthwhile solution.

He points out that, with the building of Terminal 5, Heathrow already has space for 20m more passengers.

He suggests replacing short-haul flights to Manchester and Scotland, for example, with fast and affordable rail services, freeing up runway space for long-haul flights.

He added: “It would be a win-win situation. A win for residents in surrounding areas and a win for business. Heathrow would be doing what it should be doing – long-haul flights.”

Residents in neigbouring boroughs, such as Hillingdon, are not benefitting from the growing level of passengers.

People travelling for business constitute 31 per cnt of the total, while 34 per cent are inter-changing passengers and 35 per cent visit for leisure and to see family.

Mr Stewart says the chances of a significant number of travelers doing business in Hillingdon or visiting family there and contributing to the local economy are slim.

Hillingdon Council leader Ray Puddifoot said: “You simply can't set out to make air quality worse in a location that is already recording levels above EU limits and expect to get away with it.

“There is no need to delay further consultation - the Heathrow position is clear, does not need to be reopened and need not hold up the wider considerations.”

An academic study, to be released next week, shows deaths from pollution would treble by 2030 if a third runway was built.

The study of the 20 largest airports in the UK concludes that they contribute to 110 early deaths per year, mostly due to lung cancer and cardiopulmonary complaints. Fifty of those can be attributed to Heathrow.

The report says Heathrow is in the middle of a major population centre and prevailing winds mean emissions tend to get blown over the whole of London.

As such, it is not just Hillingdon that is concerned by expansion plans.

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia says creating new flight paths over the most densely-populated area in the UK would be an environmental disaster. He wants the Government to bring forward its decision over expanding Heathrow.

Wandsworth is a member of the 2M group against Heathrow expansion.

The Government has ruled out a third runway before 2015, but has appointed a commission to explore ways to expand airport capacity in  the South East.