Heathrow's night flight restrictions retained

But threat of increase remains on the horizon

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HACAN website is at www.hacan.org.uk

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This week's decision by the Government to maintain the current night-time movement limit at Heathrow airport for the next six years has been welcomed local councils. However, there is disappointed that MPs did not take this opportunity to remove the potential threat of increased numbers of night flights after 2012.

Rob Gibson, Head of Environment at Hounslow Council, said “While this is a victory for our campaign and a victory for common sense, it is a victory only in the short-term, as it leaves the door open to increase night flights a few years down the line.”

Despite the six-year reprieve, MPs voted in favour of a plan to scrap the existing cap on night flights and replace it with a noise quota system. The proposal, one of several in the Civil Aviation Bill, had been previously been rejected by the House of Lords following a campaign by a number of parties.

The Government acknowledged the problem of noise from night-time aircraft operations in its 2003 Aviation White Paper and promised to “bear down on night noise accordingly”. It claimed its proposed noise quota scheme would help to combat the problem despite experts warning that it could lead to a four-fold increase in night flights from Heathrow.

“It is simply not possible to tackle night noise by allowing more planes to fly at night, and the Government is flying in the face of common sense on this issue,” said Mr Gibson. “The noise quota system will allow airports to significantly increase night flights by favouring less noisy aircraft. As a result, we could see a four-fold increase in night flights as aircraft technology improves.

“Clearly, more planes will mean more disturbance for people living under flight paths. Even the quietest aircraft have the ability to wake people up at night, particularly those living in close proximity to major airports in places like Hounslow. We will continue to campaign on behalf of residents who want to see a total ban on night flights.”

Speaking in Parliament, Ann Keen MP "I thank the Minister and, especially, the Government for listening to my constituents. The concession that he has announced will be most welcome in Brentford and Isleworth and, indeed, the borough of Hounslow. A lot of people have written to me about the matter and we have held many meetings with the Department. I also thank the Minister for the assurance that there will be consultation on future changes."

May 9, 2006