Airport News

Below are news items relating to specific airports

 

Aircraft noise at smaller airports, likely to have negative mental health impact if they have night flights

Aircraft noise from large airports has been frequently linked to harm to mental health, as well as physical health, but it is not known whether the same is true for smaller airports. In this blog, Dr David Wright, lead author of a recently published article in Environmental Health, looked at how much aircraft noise around a smaller airport - Belfast City - affected mental health.  It has about 40,000 annual flights, compared to Heathrow 475,000.  There is growing evidence that noise generated by large airports also affects the mental health of local residents (see NORAH and HYENA, the two largest studies). As more airlines are flying direct between smaller airports, no longer using hubs, this is an important issue. The study looked at individual and household characteristics, overlaid with noise contours. It found there was a correlation of worse mental health in areas near the airport, under the flight path. But these areas were often poorer, and poverty increases the risk of mental ill-health - so wealth rather than aircraft noise best explains the findings.  However, Belfast City airport does not have night flights (21:30 to 06:30), and it is noise that disturbs sleep that has the main impacts on mental health. "Setting sensible curfew hours would strike a balance between the economic benefits and health risks of living close to an airport."

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Uttlesford DC approves Stansted expansion plan, only by Chairman’s casting vote – but plans may now be “called in”

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed dismay and disappointment that the vote on 14th November)by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee granted approval for Stansted’s planning application to grow - to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers per annum (from the 35 million cap now).  If this approval is allowed to stand, it would mean that Stansted could increase its flights by 44% and its passenger throughput by 66% compared, to last year’s levels.  The Planning Committee, comprising ten elected Uttlesford councillors, split right down the middle with 5 in favour of the application (including the Planning Committee Chairman) and 5 against.  Where there is a split vote, the Council rulebook gives the Chairman an additional (casting) vote - so he gets 2 votes.  Both BBC and ITV regional news teams filmed the session, which was attended by many local people.  UDC cannot issue a decision notice until the Sec of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) has considered whether the application should be called in. This should have been done already, as the planned expansion is very near the threshold necessary - of an increase by 10 million annual passengers.  SSE will now submit further representations to the Secretary of State asking him (again) to call in the application. They are currently also legally challenging the decision.

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Government, not content with ONE new runway breaching UK carbon targets, is now planning for TWO

The Government will open the door for another new runway by 2050, in addition to the plans for expansion at Heathrow, in a consultation to be launched next month.  The DfT's "Aviation Strategy Green Paper" will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050, according to Sarah Bishop, DfT's Deputy Head of Aviation Policy. This would be in addition to a 3rd Heathrow runway, and perhaps Gatwick making use of its emergency runway. Ms Bishop says there could be a "need" (sic) for more expansion, to meet air travel demand. Classic outdated "predict & provide" thinking.  [The DfT gives the impression it is entirely unaware of of global climate breakdown, or the UK's responsibilities on its carbon emissions]. It remains unclear how even ONE further runway (perhaps Heathrow) could be delivered within the UK's legally binding CO2 emission targets - which require the aviation sector to keep its CO2 emissions to their 2005 level by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change warned as recently as June 2018 that higher levels of aviation emissions in 2050 “must not be planned for” and raised a series of concerns about even ONE new runway (let alone two). The No 3rd Runway Coalition believes the possibility of yet another runway being approved by the DfT would cause concerns for investors in Heathrow.

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London City airport to introduce £600 fines for the noisiest planes breaching noise limits

London City Airport is going to fine airlines £600 each for breaching noise limits, after a surge in complaints from residents (due to the concentrated flight paths that started in February 2016).  It has started a “penalty and incentive” scheme for planes breaching its rules, and will name and shame them online. The noise is now concentrated, as planes try to cut fuel use, to save money; therefore the same people get overflown all the time, creating highly unpleasant noise pollution. Many residents, from Leyton to Lewisham, have complained about the noise since the changes. This new charging emerged at a hearing at the London Assembly, when AMs questioned London City airport and Heathrow staff about the environmental impacts (noise, air pollution, carbon emissions) of their airports. Tessa Simpson, environment manager at City airport, told the Assembly yesterday: “We have set noise levels that are some of the most stringent in the country."  They have to, as the airport is located in, and surrounded by, densely populated areas.  The money will go into a "community fund" to be "shared amongst community projects.”

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Birmingham airport unveils draft Master Plan, for huge growth over next 15 years

Birmingham Airport has unveiled its draft Master Plan, with its hopes of expansion over the next 15 years. There is a consultation till 31st January. It wants to increase its capacity by 5 million passengers a year (mppa)  Much of the intended spending will be for a larger departure lounge with a mezzanine floor, new retail and restaurant units, more toilets and seating. Also more self-service desks (ie. fewer jobs...) and "the latest bag-drop technology and a new back-of-house baggage sorting area aimed at improving efficiency." (ie. fewer jobs). This has been seen by the airport's consultative committee on 5th November.  There is no plan for a 2nd runway, but the expansion will cause more environmental damage, more CO2 emissions etc. - of which, no mention is made. (The usual airport attitude is " the majority of emissions are from planes in the sky and that is nothing to do with us…"). In the 2006 Master Plan the forecasts were for 25mppa by 2030; now they have reduced that to 18mppa by 2033. There were 12.9 mppa in 2017. Local campaigners suspect this will not be encouraging shareholders to fund expansion plans till the runway situation in the south east is sorted out. The airport is claiming the increased number of passengers will boost the local economy by £xx billion, and increase jobs by yyy.  (These claims never materialise). 

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“Back Heathrow” massively funded by Heathrow airport, tries to discredit Hillingdon, for their spending to protect residents

"Back Heathrow" is the "astroturf" group set up, managed by and (probably entirely) funded by Heathrow airport, to promote its 3rd runway, largely by claiming it has huge local support. Their accounts show that in 2017 "Back Heathrow" had current assets of £1 million (£1.24m in 2016). They have Net Worth of about £951,300. They complained in January 2017 about how much money Hillingdon Borough had spent in trying to defend its residents from the adverse impacts of an even larger Heathrow airport. Back Heathrow is complaining again. It has got figures from Hillingdon Borough Council, through FoI, for what it has had to spend to oppose Heathrow's plans.  (Not being a council etc, Back Heathrow cannot be FoI-ed). It says Hillingdon has spent £1.4 million of taxpayers' money on this, between 2007 and now. In fact Hillingdon has spent about £1.12 million, as they received some funding towards the expenses, from other councils. Meanwhile, it is known that Heathrow spent £1.25 million advertising on Transport for London between June 2016 and 2017. It is also known that, between July 2015 and January 2017, the DfT spent over £3.8 million on external firms such as financial advisers N M Rothschild & Sons, law firms DLA Piper UK and Allen & Overy. No wonder local councils are given little alternative to spending money, to counteract this. 

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Might Heathrow only be able to afford its 3rd runway scheme, by being allowed another 25,000 annual flights well before runway was ready?

The Times' Chief Business Commentator, Alistair Osborne, has written on the deeply unclear finances of a possible Heathrow 3rd runway.  Alistair suggests, one way the airport could try and get in some extra cash, early in the building programme (when no airlines can use the new runway yet) is increasing the current numbers of flights and passengers. Heathrow loves to say it is full, but it is not. Each year the number of passengers creeps up - there is spare terminal capacity. But if instead of the current cap of 480,000 annual flights, Heathrow could get consent for an extra 25,000 (ie. to 505,000), it could add perhaps 6-7 million more passengers, up from the current 78 million or so.  That could bring in much needed income, to help fund the vast project - including what to do with the M25. But adding 25 million more annual flights means about 65 more per day. Heathrow hopes to appease the ire of badly impacted local residents, by saying they would start flying at 5.30am rather than the 4.30am start now. But there would then be plane after plane after plane then, when people are still trying to sleep. And the airlines don't like the idea, as it upsets their lucrative long haul schedules, and causes less resilience if there are delays, at the peak periods. 

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SSE say Stansted airport spin doctors are in a desperate final attempt to sway Uttlesford DC planners

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has described the latest Stansted press release claiming public support for its expansion plans as a complete distortion of the facts and a desperate eleventh hour attempt by the airport’s spin doctors to influence members of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee. The Committee is due to consider the airport planning application - for 44% more flights and 66% more passengers per year - on 14th November. The expansion would mean far higher CO2 emissions (over 1 million tonnes) from Stansted flights than now.  SSE says the expansion plan "would have very serious environmental consequences for this generation and future generations.  It would inflict yet more noise misery upon local residents and it would be a recipe for gridlock [local roads]. ... We simply do not have the infrastructure to support an airport the size of Gatwick”. When Stansted claim hundreds of people support its plans, this is in part due to "repeatedly badgering all airport employees to trigger automatic computer-generated “I support expansion” emails. Only 16 members of the general public sent individual letters or emails to UDC backing the proposals. But UDC received 934 individually-written letters and emails opposing the plans including objections from 47 Parish Councils.  No Parish Council has registered its support for the expansion proposals.

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Heathrow regulator, the CAA, demands answers urgently on Heathrow’s 3rd runway plan

The CEO, Richard Moriarty, of aviation watchdog body, the CAA, have written to the Department for Transport (DfT) asking that they should "decisively and urgently” address major concerns about the funding for the 3rd runway scheme - at least £14 billion, and doubtless more with cost over-runs and things not going to plan. They say Heathrow must “provide assurance that its revised timetable is realistic” and would “ensure timely delivery” of the expansion. The CAA threatens enforcement action against Heathrow to force it to provide clear evidence about how it would finance the scheme, while avoiding pushing up costs for airlines and passengers. The CAA says the project had been hit by a further delay, with a public consultation on detailed plans for the new runway now scheduled for June rather than in the first three months of next year. Heathrow is already the most expensive airport in the world, with landing charges of over £20 per ticket, and that is likely to rise - regardless of flimsy Heathrow assurances. Mr Moriarty said there is a  “lack of high quality and comprehensive information” about how Heathrow would keep costs down, while being commercially viable, and these concerns had “not been adequately addressed, despite repeated requests”.

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Cabbies say Heathrow does not care about air pollution, as they announce sky high taxi electric charging price

Heathrow has to try and get air pollution levels down, as they are already breaching legal limits. With a 3rd runway, they would only get worse. Heathrow has pledged, and tried to persuade the government, that it will do all it can to keep pollution levels down, and there will be (very, very hard to believe ...) "no more" vehicles on the roads round Heathrow, associated with the airport, than now. One of the things Heathrow hopes will help is use of more electric vehicles, lowering local pollution. So one might have thought they would be keen to encourage taxis to use electricity as much as possible, to make their air pollution figures look better. Sure enough, there are now many electric charging points. But belatedly Heathrow has now announced that they will charge a very high price (31p per kW) for this charging. This is far higher than plug-in on street Polar for as little as 0.09p per KW, or even dedicated Transport for London taxi chargers at 22p per KW. Taxi drivers are saying they will not pay the 31p, and will instead use the petrol option on their hybrids for the trip back into London. By contrast, Gatwick has 8 charging points in short stay car parks, with free electricity, and free parking for up to 4 hours for this.

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