|Consultation on Runway Alternation Postponed Again|
As record numbers of residents protest over increased noise
The Government has postponed for a second time the consultation on its controversial plans to end runway alternation in West London. The Department has admitted that ‘ministers have yet to reach final decisions’ on the consultation, which was originally expected in March and then scheduled for October.
Department of Transport official David Gray told the Heathrow Area Consultative Committee that the Government is still assessing the impacts on noise and air pollution of ending runway alternation. Gray added that the Department for Transport is carrying out work to assess future air pollution and noise levels should a third runway be given the go-ahead and that it was possible that consultation on a third runway might take place at the same time as consultation on runway alternation.
A Public Inquiry would be required if any of the proposals resulted in the cap of 480,000 flights permitted at Heathrow in a year being exceeded . The Department for Transport has admitted that a 3rd runway would result in 650,000 flights a year and any plans to end runway alternation would mean at least 515,000 flights per annum. The Civil Aviation Authority calculated that if runway alternation was ended and a third runway was built over 700,000 flights a year would use the airport .
John Stewart, Chair of residents’ group HACAN ClearSkies, said, “The Government is under strong pressure from the airlines to end runway alternation. The fact that it has now twice postponed the consultation twice suggests that the noise and air pollution impacts of doing away with runway alternation are much worse than it thought. Residents are only too well aware how dreadful it will be to have planes coming over all day long. It will be like living underneath the M25”.
Cllr. Ruth Cadbury, Deputy Leader of the Hounslow Labour Group urged residents to contact their MPs and Ministers on the issue. She said of the postponement, " Is this because they finally realise that to remove the last respite of peace for those living near Heathrow is a step too far? Certainly those living under the flight path to the northern runway have had direct experience of what the ending of alternation will mean whilst the current repair works are taking place - for up to 10 weeks they are experiencing no alternation, no usual break for half the day, planes every 60 seconds from 6am until after 11 pm."
A record number of residents have complained to Hounslow Council about aircraft noise following the suspension of runway alternation at Heathrow. The Council’s noise hotline registered over 100 complaints in just four weeks after runway repairs saw BAA using the northern runway for landings all day long. The number to contact is given below.
This temporary switch, which mimics the effect of what is known as mixed mode operations for people living beneath the northern runway, has given residents an unwelcome glimpse of how much noisier life would be if plans to abandon runway alternation are given the green.
Cllr Barbara Reid, Executive Member for Aviation said “It’s clear that many residents are suffering additional aircraft noise and finding it quite unbearable. The temporary suspension of runway alternation has given us an unwelcome glimpse of just how noisy life will be if mixed mode is introduced at Heathrow.
“I am pleased that more and more people are making their voices heard on this issue. It really can make a difference, as our experience of helping to overturn the Government’s plans to increase night fights demonstrated.
“We will make sure that all residents have the opportunity to speak out against plans to abandon runway alternation as part of our ‘Say No To Mixed Mode campaign’. Our aim is to send a very clear message to the Government 13 ‘enough is enough’.”
Jonathan Carritt of Park Road, Chiswick, was one of many residents who complained to the council’s noise hotline about additional noise. “We had no warning whatsoever,” he said. “It’s really important to have the peaceful periods to look forward to. Suddenly we are getting the planes all day long.”
David Short, a father-of-one from Isleworth, said he was ‘distressed and unhappy’ at the thought of mixed mode being introduced permanently. “I couldn’t put up with it,” he said. “I would have to think about selling my house”.
But Richard Collard of Brentford was able to strike a positive note. “If this has provoked strong feelings from more residents then that’s to be welcomed, because our voice needs to be heard,” he said.
Cllr Reid and the Council’s leader, Cllr Peter Thompson, will take up the issue with airport bosses when they hold their first official meeting with BAA later this month.
If you’re disturbed by aircraft noise you can register a complaint on the council’s aircraft noise hotline on 020 8583 5230 or email email@example.com.
October 13, 2006