Plea to Government after High Court noise ruling

23.5.2008   (Richmond Council press release)

A plea to the Government to clarify its attitude on aircraft noise was made by
Richmond Council after the High Court ruled today that the Transport Secretary
was under no obligation to improve conditions for residents woken up by early
morning arrivals at Heathrow.

Mr Justice Sullivan said that while the Government had a policy of bearing down
on night noise this did not necessarily mean that it had to make things better.
He added that the policy was, therefore, "vacuous."

Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead Councils claimed that the Transport Secretary had acted unlawfully in failing
to properly address concerns over the misclassification of aircraft arriving at
Heathrow before 6am.

Half the planes in this early morning period had been placed in the wrong noise
category, the Councils contended.  If they had been correctly classified they
would not have been able to fly.

The Government argued that because the night flights scheme pooled noise data
over the three London airports it did not have to take specific action on what
was a Heathrow problem.

The local authorities argued that actual noise levels for all the early morning
arrivals breached the limit of 87 decibels set for departures.   They argued that
if the Government’s aim was to protect residents from excessive noise, it should
have acted on this discrepancy.

Leader of Richmond Council, Cllr Serge Lourie, said:

"Residents will be astonished to learn that, provided the numbers stack up at
Gatwick and Stansted, Ministers do not have to do anything about night-noise at

"It will be difficult now for residents to have any confidence that Ministers
will make a proper assessment of the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion.

"All the Councils will now step up their call for a complete ban on night-flights.
This is our ultimate goal – to end this continuing noise misery for our residents."

On average there are around 16 early morning arrivals each day at Heathrow between
4.30am and 6am.

Eight of these are ranked in a QC2 category when subsequent noise tests showed
they should have been in a higher band (QC4) for which there is a scheduling ban
at this time of night.

The application for a Judicial Review was supported by Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Lambeth, and Hillingdon Councils and the GLA.

All the authorities are members of the 2M Group, which campaigns against Heathrow
expansion and fights to protect the quality of life of residents in their local

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 Press release