Councils badly affected by Heathrow noise say 3rd runway could mean even more night flights than now
Government assurances that night flights could be banned with a third runway have been undermined by a new report from a major airline group – IAG – making the case for additional flights in the early morning period. In its submission to the Transport Select Committee, IAG, (parent company of BA, the main airline at Heathrow), said that the Government’s Airports NPS should focus on providing “extended periods of predictable respite from scheduled night flights rather than a prescriptive ban for an arbitrary number of hours”. BA operates 11 of the 16 flights which arrive at Heathrow in the night time period between 11.30pm and 6am. The Airports Commission recommended that all scheduled flights should be banned, between 11.30pm and 6.00am (six and a half hours) as a condition of the 3rd runway going ahead. But Heathrow said it would move that six hours back, so it is 11.00pm to 5.30am. There is already a ban (scheduled – not mentioning non-scheduled) after 11pm. The Government’s draft NPS published in February 2017 watered down this recommendation and proposed a ban of six and a half hours with the exact times to be determined following consultation together with a “predictable, though reduced, period of respite for local communities”. So the NPS as currently drafted provides no guarantee that a meaningful night ban will be introduced .IAG says a curfew would make it harder to add new flights from certain time zones.
Third Runway Could Mean More Night Flights
New report undermines Government promise that night flights might be banned says four councils
Government assurances that night flights could be banned with a third runway have been undermined by a new report from a major airline group making the case for additional flights in the early morning period.
In its submission to the Transport Select Committee, IAG, which is the parent company of British Airways, said that the Government’s national policy statement on aviation (NPS) should focus on providing ‘extended periods of predictable respite from scheduled night flights rather than a prescriptive ban for an arbitrary number of hours’.
BA operates 11 of the 16 flights which arrive at Heathrow in the night time period between 11.30pm and 6am.
The Airports Commission recommended that all flights in the night time period should be banned as a condition of the third runway going ahead.
The Government’s draft NPS published in February 2017 watered down this recommendation and proposed a ban of six and a half hours with the exact times to be determined following consultation together with a ‘predictable, though reduced, period of respite for local communities’.
The IAG submission also argued that a curfew would make it harder to add new flights from certain time zones.
Local authorities opposed to expansion at Heathrow say that in pressing for more night flights the airline had demonstrated the feebleness of the Government’s position.
Wandsworth council leader Ravi Govindia, pictured above, said: “The pressure from the airlines shows once again that the industry is not prepared to share the benefits of expansion with the communities affected at an airport which is responsible for more noise than all the major European hubs put together.
“We can expect further challenges to all the essential mitigation that the Airports Commission said must accompany an expanded Heathrow. It shows that whatever the Transport Secretary may say a third runway cannot be delivered without bringing extra noise for local communities.”
Cllr Paul Hodgins, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “The Government’s NPS as currently drafted provides no guarantee that a meaningful night ban will be introduced. Once the detailed planning process begins we can expect the current conditions to be whittled away. This is yet another example of why the Government should be looking at Gatwick Airport rather than expanding Heathrow.”
Councillor Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, added: “No Government promise to ban or even reduce the number of early morning arrivals is worth the paper it is written on. Unless the airlines agree there is nothing ministers can do.”
Councillor Simon Dudley, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “BA has shown that rather than accepting any restriction they actually want more night flights. There is simply no form of ‘respite’ that is going to protect residents from the extra sleep disruption this is bound to cause.”
The Chancellor Philip Hammond was reported in April 2017 as saying that many of his Cabinet colleagues made the decision to support the third runway on the basis that (they) accepted the Airports Commission’s recommendations for mitigation.
The IAG submission is published on the Transport Select Committee website.
The local authority group which comprises Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils will be giving evidence to the transport Select Committee today (Monday).
This is what Heathrow said, on 11th May 2016:
Airports Commission conditions
“Following construction of a third runway there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period 11:30 pm to 6 am”
Meeting the Airports Commission
The introduction of a legally binding ban on all scheduled night flights for six and a half hours (as recommended by the Airports Commission) from 11 pm to 5:30 am when the third runway opens.
Exceeding the Airports Commission
We will support the earlier introduction of this extended ban on night flights by Government as soon as the necessary airspace has been modernised after planning consent for the third runway has been secured.
DfT confirms numbers of night flights – till 2022 – at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will not be cut
Changes to the night flights regime, at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted have been delayed for several years. The DfT has now produced its Decision Document on the issue. Anyone expecting meaningful cuts in night flights, or noise from night flights will be disappointed. There is no change in numbers, and just some tinkering with noise categories. The DfT says night flights from Heathrow will continue until (if) the airport is expanded, and it just hopes airlines will be using slightly less noisy planes. Pretty much, effectively, “business as usual.” Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said he had to “strike a balance between the economic benefits of flying and the impact on local residents.” The DfT objective is to: “encourage the use of quieter aircraft to limit or reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise at night, while maintaining the existing benefits of night flights”. But it says: “Many industry responses welcomed the recognition by government of the benefits night flights offer and highlighted the importance of night flights to the business models of airlines, for instance by allowing low-cost airlines to operate the necessary minimum amount of rotations a day, or the benefits to the time-sensitive freight sector through enabling next day deliveries.”
Phillip Hammond: Ministers ‘only backed third Heathrow runway if night flight ban remained’
Several Cabinet ministers only backed a Heathrow 3rd runway on the condition that the Government ensured there was a proper night flight ban. At a meeting in his Englefield Green constituency, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond hit back at airlines – like IAG – that are pushing strongly for early morning flights, which cause noise misery for many local people, to be allowed to continue. He told local residents in his Runnymede and Weybridge constituency that he supports Heathrow expansion if measures proposed by the Airport Commission (Chairman, Howard Davies) were guaranteed to protect communities close to the airport. The Commission said there should be a ban on all scheduled [ignoring un-scheduled however] night flights between 11.30pm and 6.00am. Heathrow has proposed 11pm to 5.30am – it wants early flights. IAG has said it needs flights landing early, and at the terminal, by 5.30am and then a large number of flights before 7am. Few people consider 5.15am the end of their period of sleep, so that is entirely unacceptable to anyone who is woken by plane noise. Evidence shows many health impacts of sleep disturbed by plane noise, including cardiovascular impacts and Type 2 diabetes.
Night flight noise likely to increase risk of Type 2 diabetes for those living under flightpaths
Research by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel has shown that people who live below an airport flightpath are more than 80% more likely to have type 2 diabetes than people who live in quieter areas. The findings have led scientists to suggest that aircraft noise, rather than air pollution, could be to blame. The noise of the planes overhead, when they are low and loud, is likely to have a devastating effect on the body’s metabolism, leading to increased blood sugar levels. The effect is largely from noise at night, confirming that night flights are damaging to health. The cost to the health of over-flown populations needs to be properly taken into account, and given enough significance against small economic benefits of night flights to airports and airlines (which is how the DfT assesses the issue at present). Heathrow already has – by an order of magnitude – the most people affected by night flights, with over 700,000 living within the 55 Lden noise average contours. The link to diabetes is through the body’s reaction to stress, raising blood pressure. Noise stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis, leading to increased blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol. Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart disease, strokes, limb amputations and blindness. It affects over 3 million people in the UK.