Heathrow braced for new night flights battle

17.3.2010 (Evening Standard)

by Nicholas Cecil, Chief Political Correspondent

Ministers are preparing for a fresh battle over night flights at Heathrow which they fear could harden opposition to a third runway.

A consultation on a new night flights regime is due to take place this year.

At present 2,550 take-offs or landings are allowed at Heathrow between 11.30pm
and 6am during the six-month winter season and 3,250 in the summer months — about
16 a night.

Ministers sought to relax the restrictions in 2006 when they were last reviewed
and campaigners believe they will launch another attempt to pave the way for more
night flights from 2012, and a further increase between 6am and 7am.

John Stewart, chairman of anti-expansion group Hacan, said: "The Government gave no guarantee that the cap would be kept after 2012.
That will be the fight."

The consultation on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted could start
in the autumn.

Documents released under freedom of information laws highlight the Department
for Transport’s concerns.

Its business plan risk assessment states: "Consultation on the next night flights
regime (possibly in autumn 2010) gets embroiled in other Heathrow consultations
around the same time, leading to the issues becoming blurred in people’s minds
and possibly hardening opposition to Heathrow expansion."

A DfT spokesman said: "The number of night flights in and out of Heathrow is
subject to strict limits set by the department, and this regime is updated every
six years after public consultation.

"The decisions made about the future of Heathrow are completely separate from,
and will not change, the current night flight regime. It is only right that the
department ensures these two separate policies are not confused."



See more on night flights on the HACAN website at


This says:

Ban night flights for an 8 hour night: 11pm – 7am.

The Department for Transport has admitted that over 500,000 people live under
the night time flight path. People woken up by night flights can become very stressed
out. A ban is operationally possible. Research carried out by HACAN ClearSkies shows there is no good operational
reason why the current night flights can’t arrive at Heathrow during the day and
leave their countries of origin at a reasonable hour. It flies in the face of common sense for the Government to suggest that 16 night
flights are essential to the UK economy.
It has produced no research to back this up. A ban on flights between 11.30pm
and 6am is entirely realistic.

HACAN ClearSkies would go further. There is strong evidence to support an 8 hour night flight ban from 11pm until
This is when most people are asleep. A night ban extended from 6am to 7am would
affect many more flights. But it would force the airlines and the airport to sharpen
up their operations. It would result in far fewer empty seats on day-time flights
and would force the authorities to consider the position of transfer passengers
– who currently account for a quarter of all passengers using Heathrow and who
contribute little to the overall economy.



There is also a  onep-page Night Flights briefing at