Warning Shot From Flightpath Councils

Davies Commission urged to guarantee Heathrow noise respite

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More than 20 local councils will tell the Government’s aviation commission that loosening restrictions on Heathrow’s existing runways would destroy the quality of life for flightpath communities on all sides of the airport.

The all-party 2M group - which represents more than five million people in boroughs close to Heathrow – wants a guarantee that ‘runway alternation’ and night flight restrictions will not be sacrificed so the airport can handle more planes.

The campaign group says that allowing both runways to be used in tandem for arrivals and departures – a system called ‘mixed mode’- would be just as damaging as creating a third and fourth landing strip.

The councils are now preparing evidence for a new aviation commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, which was launched by the Government to examine the case for airport development across the UK.

2M has successfully blocked previous attempts to introduce mixed mode and overturned the previous Government’s plans for a third runway in the High Court.

The areas under Heathrow's flightpaths are the most densely populated parts of the country. On a typical day the first planes approach over south and west London from 4.30am. Intervals between aircraft are around 90 seconds.

To ease the impact on people living below, Heathrow is required to use one of its runways at a time for arrivals – a system called runway alternation. Their use is switched each day at 3pm.

The flightpath for each runway is slightly different so changing over halfway through the day gives residents a break from overhead planes.

Heathrow is also restricted to landing no more than an average of 16 aircraft between the hours of 11.30pm and 6am each night so flightpath communities can sleep. In practice almost all of these ‘permitted night flights’ arrive between 4.30am and 6am.

2M says that the limited respite provided by runway alternation and night flight restrictions must not be eroded to increase Heathrow capacity. The group will also tell the commission that air pollution around the airport already breaches legally-binding EU limits. This requires immediate action to meet the levels set for the protection of human health. Any attempt to worsen the situation by increasing runway capacity and adding extra road traffic would be certain to face legal challenge.

Leader of Wandsworth Council and 2M spokesman Ravi Govindia said:
“No other airport in Europe has flightpaths over such densely populated areas. 2M will urge the Davies Commission to dismiss any proposal that heaps more misery on these communities. The prospect of full mixed mode is just as distressing as a third runway and should be ruled out at the earliest opportunity. There is no escaping the fact that Heathrow is in the wrong place for a major airport and any form of expansion will have devastating consequences for Londoners' quality of life.”

Leader of Hounslow Council and 2M spokesman Jagdish Sharma, pictured right, said: "Runway alternation is quite simply non-negotiable for Hounslow's residents. Ending it would destroy the periods of peace from aircraft noise for residents which have already been eroded by the operational freedoms trials."

Leader of Kingston Council and 2M spokesman Cllr Derek Osbourne said:
“We cannot afford to lose the little protection people have against the noise and disruption which blights so many Londoners’ daily lives, affecting their health and stopping them getting a good night’s sleep.”

November 12, 2012