Heathrow “Community Noise Forum” to get independent study into continuing changes (or not) to flight paths
In December 2014 Heathrow decided to set up a “Community Noise Forum” to set up dialogue with deeply upset and angry community groups – and try to build up some trust. There is already a separate “Noise Forum.” The Community Noise Forum consists of representatives of the Airport, the CAA, NATS, BA, local authorities, community organisations and campaign groups. One key task of the new Forum is to try to resolve the dispute between Heathrow and the communities affected by the flight path trials. These took place last year, and while the airport is adamant that the situation has returned to the pre-trial pattern, residents in areas such as Ascot, Teddington, Englefield Green, Lightwater, Binfield and Bracknell, are adamant that it has not. The Forum is to commission an independent study (it has to be independent) to look at the flight paths before the trials, during and afterwards. The aim is to see whether flight paths post-trial really have gone back to their pre-trial routes, or not. The independent study will also look into whether any other changes had taken place. Heathrow can give technical assistance and will pay for the study. A steering group will draw up the brief for the study, and report back to the Forum.
Heathrow Airport has set up the Community Noise Forum. It consists of representatives of the Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), National Air Traffic Control (NATS), British Airways, local authorities, community organizations and campaign groups. It was set up following the complaints received during the recent trials carried out by Heathrow and NATS. In particular, it was hoped it could resolve the dispute between Heathrow and the communities where the trials took place that flight paths have or have not returned to their pre-trial pattern. It is the reason why these communities and local authorities – largely to the west of the airport – are at present the main participants. Local authorities and community organizations to the east of the airport are expected to be invited to join at a later stage, though HACAN, as the overall body, is on the Forum and does represent residents in these areas.
Its first task will be to commission an independent study to look at the flight paths before the recent trials took, during the trials and post-trials. The aim is to see whether flight paths post-trial have gone back to their pre-trial routes. Many in the communities impacted – places like Ascot, Teddington, Englefield Green, Lightwater, Binfield and Bracknell, claim they have not. Heathrow Airport claims they have.
The independent study will also look into whether any other changes had taken place. The steering group which will draw up the brief for the study and which will oversee it will be drawn entirely from community representatives of the areas where the trials took place. Heathrow has offered technical assistance and will pay for the study. The steering group will meet soon. It will report back to the Community Noise Forum.
NATS explained to the Forum the change they made to some flight paths in June 2014 without telling anybody. It transpires that what happened was that, when easterly winds were blowing, around 20 aircraft a day departing on the Compton Route were moved north and concentrated over a 7 mile band covering places like Ascot, Bracknell and Binfield. Previously they had been spread across a 13 mile band which included areas to the south of these places. It is not regarded as a major change and won’t be reversed.
There is a separate Noise Forum, on which HACAN also has a place along with a local authority representative and representatives from the industry, which doesn’t look at area-specific work but concentrates on more generic issues such as respite.
Information from Heathrow’s website:
Community Noise Forum
The Heathrow Community Noise Forum was set up in 2015 and is made up of representatives from 12 local authorities around Heathrow, NATS, BA, DfT, CAA and Heathrow.
Heathrow set up the forum in response to local concerns regarding future changes to airspace as a result of the Government’s Future Airspace Strategy.
Its aims are to:
- keep community representatives and local authority stakeholders informed and seek their input in preparing for and consulting on future airspace modernisation as part of the Government’s Future Airspace Strategy;
- improve understanding of members on Heathrow’s operations and airspace issues;
- seek input from members to inform the communications approach to trials and public consultations regarding potential airspace changes;
- build trust in the data through members involvement in the independent verification of the data and analysis of data.
On this page you can find the information relating to the Heathrow Community Noise Forum including minutes and presentations from meetings.
Meeting 1 on 2 March 2015
Meeting notes 2 March 2015 (262KB PDF)
Heathrow says it did not know flight path changes were continuing – blames NATS for not telling them
Heathrow and NATS had flight path trials during summer 2014, which ended on 12th November, due to intense opposition. See details. But complaints have continued and people have been adamant that the trials have not ended. Heathrow has given assurance after assurance that the trials have ceased, implying people are imagining the noise – or have become over-sensitive to it. Now Heathrow and NATS have had to apologise. Heathrow says it did not know the trial affecting the “Compton” route to the south west and west of Heathrow had not ended, as NATS had not informed them. As NATS and Heathrow work closely together, that is very hard to believe. Even if it could be credible, it reveals a markedly dismissive attitude to the thousands of upset residents, who have complained week after week. The airport had made no apparent effort to establish the facts, for many months. The areas particularly affected by this change are Virginia Water, Ascot, Binfield and some parts of Bracknell, which are experiencing a concentrated flight path. John Holland-Kaye said: “Because of the assurances we received [from NATS], we in turn told residents in good faith that no changes had occurred. That is unacceptable and I unequivocally apologise to local residents.” However, NATS say they changed the route to improve the safe and efficient management of traffic departing from Heathrow and they are not planning to revert to previous procedures.
Heathrow Airport to set up a new Community Noise Forum, to help residents understand flight path issues
Heathrow Airport knows it has a real problem with aircraft noise, that could block its runway aspirations. The recent flight path changes and trials revealed a degree of anger and opposition to increased plane noise that stunned Heathrow staff. Thousands of people newly overflown, or under new concentrated flight paths, expressed their intense opposition to the noise nuisance inflicted on them. Heathrow, at its Consultative Committee meeting on 10th December, was keen to set up a new “Community Noise Forum” through which to try to defuse some of this local anger and dissatisfaction – and to try to win back some trust. For many, the repeated half truths and worse from the airport mean trust has broken down irretrievably. The minutes say: “Even the CAA had been regarded by some as not entirely independent in the process.” There is already a “Noise Forum” (which replaced the Heathrow Noise & Track Keeping Working Group (NTKWG)), but that only involves HACAN and not other community groups. The new plan is to get something started as soon as possible, to give the appropriate community members and local authorities access to the raw data on flight path dispersal and concentration. A suitable chairperson needs to be located.