Tens of thousands of Londoners could face a respite from noisy planes of just four hours of their waking day if Heathrow expands, MPs have been told.
The airport currently switches runway use to ensure residents enjoy about eight hours of the 16-hour “working day” free from disturbing noise.
The Airports Commission has admitted that if another runway were built at Heathrow, this period would be cut to a third of the working day, which runs from 7am to 11pm, rather than half. But it insists the extra capacity the runway would bring would mean these periods could be more reliably maintained.
However, Daniel Moylan, the Mayor’s chief aviation adviser, told MPs that the respite period could be cut to as little as about four hours.
John Stewart, chairman of anti-third runway group HACAN, said: “If this is true, there will be uproar in communities across west London because for many people it’s the break from the noise that makes life bearable.”
[Below is what Heathrow says]
Heathrow said its own proposals showed it was possible to offer respite to 95 per cent of people affected by noise for 50 per cent of the time. [This sort of Heathrow statement needs to be treated with a great deal of caution, to understand exactly what is meant. It is not likely to mean what it appears to say, at face value. Beware! AW note]
“We have listened closely to feedback from residents, including groups like HACAN, to ensure our plans provide respite for almost every resident impacted by Heathrow’s operations — something that isn’t possible today,” a spokeswoman for the airport added. [This is likely to mean that – as only those living within certain noise contour areas are included in noise statistics – by carefully tweaking contours, they can adjust the numbers within certain noise contours to theoretically exclude areas. People anywhere close to a noise contour boundary, but just outside it, are likely to be experiencing a very similar degree of noise to someone just inside it. But they would – in theory – not be subjected to noise at all ….just considering those within the contour. AW note].
In its final report, the Airports Commission insists Heathrow can expand with a third runway, and possibly a fourth, while cutting the number of people disturbed by aircraft noise, partly due to quieter planes. But Mr Moylan told MPs: “It’s inherently implausible that you could have 50 per cent more flights, a third runway, and have an improved noise situation.”
Last year, the number of people blighted by Heathrow aircraft noise hit a 13-year high of just over 270,000, according to figures from the Civil Aviation Authority based on the Government’s preferred measurement.
But Heathrow said an analysis it commissioned from the CAA, using a different measurement favoured by City Hall and the European Commission, showed the number actually fell, by 46,000 from 2013.
Heathrow Airport Runway Alternation details
The video of the Environmental Audit Committee evidence session can be seen at http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/a2842f84-fbaf-47ab-879a-71d3359e29d5
The comments by Daniel Moylan start 16.12.14 into the video.
Transcript of what Daniel said on noise:
“It is inherently implausible that you can have 50% more flights, a 3rd runway and have an improved noise situation. As the Mayor once said, there would be more pigs flying over Heathrow than aeroplanes, if you really believe that. So I think you could start with the view that it is inherently implausible. And there is this issue of respite. At the moment it is 50:50 so the runway alternation with 2 runways allows respite for half the affected population for half the population for half a day but when you have three runways you can’t do that. One of the runways has to operate in mixed mode – and Davies admits that the respite period would on average fall to a third of the flying day rather than half at the moment. But our analysis shows that while that figure of a third, as an average, is about right, for some communities, for over half the communities, this will fall to 25% of the day only. And for the others it will be 50%. So the 30% is an average, and includes 50% of the affected population – a larger population – having only 25% of the flying day as respite.
“That is something people are not aware of that is coming down the road at them.”
Asked a question by Jo Churchill MP:
“May I just confirm that is all what the Commission stated Heathrow must stay within the “noise envelope” with noise limits no higher than today? You have to keep within those limits while jacking up [the number of flights]?
Daniel Moylan replied:
“I have a difficulty with this because noise is not a thing, but it is an experience and if I have half the noise and I share half of it with Nick [Lord True] is that an improvement or not. Given how you measure noise in logarithmic scales, it might be a significant improvement. But the whole notion of a noise envelope – noise contours are another matter – but the whole notion of a noise envelope that people have to stick to, I have huge difficulties with because it is not a quantum of something.”
In his concluding statement, Daniel Moylan said of a 3rd Heathrow runway: (16.20.17 into the video)
“I have to look at it from the point of view of the Mayor. It is just worth remembering that the Mayor has views on this question but he has responsibilities to which he is elected that relate to spatial geography, economic development, planning, housing and all sorts of aspects of London. And an airport, or indeed a new runway at an airport, and the number of flights involved, represent a very VIOLENT powerful intervention in all of those responsibilities.
“So even if it could be shown that – I don’t actually believe myself it is every likely to be compliant with EU air quality limits, I think that is going to be hugely challenging – even if it could be shown, he would still be left with the question, but why would I want to do that. Why would I as Mayor, with all these responsibilities, in a city with a population of already 8.6 million, forecast very reliably to be 10 million by the time this runway opens, why would I want to do that and impose that on all of these people when we need a better solution. He of course will not be Mayor for very much longer and the issues will not be those of the Mayor, but there will be someone else in position and you can argue with them yourselves, but I find it difficult to see any of those nominated for the post sitting down and saying, “Yeah, we’ve solved it, let’s just get on with it.” I don’t see it happening.”