New night flight plans delayed

as publication delayed until February....

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Detailed Government proposals for night flights at Heathrow airport have been delayed following December's successful court action by Wandsworth and Richmond councils.

The transport department had told the High Court it would begin its second stage consultation on restrictions for next winter on January 17. But publication is now thought to be unlikely before the middle of February.

The court challenge came to an end when the Government conceded that it could take into account the real noise levels caused by flights landing at Heathrow before 6am when considering restrictions. The climbdown was forced by the council's revelation that the true noise level of 747-400s with Rolls Royce engines was 74 per cent higher than the prescribed limit.

The two councils believe that ministers now have the opportunity to specify fewer early morning arrivals in the schedules which are due to take effect from the end of October 2005.

Council leader Edward Lister said:

"The consultation document we want to see from the transport department is the one that says the noisier 747s will not be allowed to land before 6am. By banning these aircraft ministers could reduce the number of early morning arrivals. If this is the outcome it will have been worth waiting for.

"Alternatively ministers could limit other planes so that the overall noise levels experienced by residents are reduced.The Government has always claimed it was committed to improving the night noise climate. Last December's hearing has presented the ministers with the opportunity to do just that.

"If however we just get a hasty reworking of the existing quotas to allow the same number of aircraft to fly it will be obvious that the airlines have won.

"We will challenge any move to make the noise environment worse for our residents."

The Government has to allow three months for consultation on its proposals. Further delays could make it difficult to introduce any new quotas in time for the winter season 2005/2006.


January 28, 2005