Heathrow night flights: Ministers to consider economic impact of sleep loss
The government says it will consider the economic impact of sleep disruption on people living near Heathrow in any review of night flights to the airport. Current rules, under which an average of between 14 and 16 flights land before 6am each day, were recently extended until October 2014. A Minister pledged to balance business and noise concerns in future. Campaigners are pressing for a ban on flights arriving before 6am – which come mainly from the Far East and the west coast of America – and a phased reduction in arrivals before 6am and 7am. Susan Kramer said: “Local residents are woken at 4am onwards not because of capacity issues at Heathrow but because of limits on departure schedules at other airports.” HACAN commented: “We have, frankly, never believed the argument made by the airline industry that if 16 night flights were moved to daytime then the economy of London and the UK would collapse,”
28 May 2012 (BBC)
The government says it will consider the economic impact of sleep disruption on people living near Heathrow in any review of night flights to the airport.
Current rules, under which an average of between 14 and 16 flights land before 6am each day, were recently extended until October 2014.
Minister Earl Attlee pledged to balance business and noise concerns in future.
Anti-noise campaigners said they were “pleased” but airlines said there was no “significant evidence” of damage.
The coalition government is coming under increasing pressure from business and many Conservative MPs to reconsider its decision to rule out building a third runway at Heathrow.
At the same time, campaigners are pressing for a ban on flights arriving before 6am – which come mainly from the Far East and the west coast of America – and a phased reduction in arrivals before 6am and 7am to ease the disruption to nearby residents.
“Local residents are woken at 4am onwards not because of capacity issues at Heathrow but because of limits on departure schedules at other airports,” Lib Dem peer Baroness Kramer told peers.
Responding for the government, Earl Attlee said any review must “strike a balance between noise disturbance and the economic benefits of night flights”.
He suggested that putting pressure on foreign airlines to delay departure times of flights to London, to allow for later arrivals, might cause “problems” in Asia but pointed out that airlines were not allowed to use their noisiest aircraft on routes arriving at this time.
He was urged by Labour’s Lord Faulkener of Worcester to consider “the economic disbenefits of the effects of sleep deprivation and other social effects as a result of night flights against the economic benefits of having more planes arriving earlier”.
Earl Attlee replied that ministers “would do exactly that” when it came to Heathrow.
However, he said he could not make a similar pledge for Gatwick and Stansted as the number of residents affected by night flights totalled only a couple of thousand, as opposed to nearly 230,000 near Heathrow.
‘Vital for UK’
The Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN) said the issue of sleep deprivation and its economic effects had never been considered before in a review of flight patterns.
It said a report HACAN had commissioned from Dutch aviation consultants Ce Delft suggested the economic disadvantages of night flights into Heathrow outweighed their benefits.
“We have, frankly, never believed the argument made by the airline industry that if 16 night flights were moved to daytime then the economy of London and the UK would collapse,” John Stewart, the organisation’s chairman, said.
Airlines said they had yet to see any “significant evidence” that sleep deprivation was causing economic damage and pointed out that many people chose to live near to Heathrow because they either worked there or wanted quick access.
“We would certainly not want to see any further tightening of the screw on night flights as we believe it would have a detrimental economic impact,” said Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association.
“We certainly believe it is vital for the UK economy that there are night flights because without them it would be impossible to continue serving certain destinations.”
And Labour peer Lord Foulkes said the issue that really needed to be addressed was that Heathrow was operating at maximum capacity. “Isn’t it about time that the government stopped dithering and made a decision to go ahead with a new runway at Heathrow?”
“We have, frankly never believed, the argument made by the airline industry that if 16 night flights were moved to daytime then the economy of London and the UK would collapse”
CURRENT RULES ON NIGHT FLIGHTS TO HEATHROW
- The number of aircraft allowed to land before 0600 is limited
- The noisiest aircraft are not allowed to arrive or depart between 2330 and 0730
Ban on night flights at Heathrow Airport – A quick scan Social Cost Benefit Analysis
Author: CE Delft
Length: 47 pages
28 May 2012 : Column 959
Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Government are aware that night noise continues to be a concern for residents around Heathrow. We have extended the current night-time flying regime at Heathrow for two years until October 2014 and will begin a review later this year on its replacement. In considering a new regime, it is important that we take care to strike a balance between noise disturbance and the economic benefits of night flights.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, local residents are woken from 4 am onwards not because of capacity issues at Heathrow but because of limits on departure schedules at other airports. If the Government will not commit to eliminating night flights, will they at least undertake to negotiate with the relevant countries for a timetable that is gentler for residents under the flight path in this country? Will they also negotiate with the airlines to get them to commit to put the latest, quietest aircraft on these routes? I understand that none has yet committed to doing so for early landings.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend makes a number of points. She referred to aircraft coming from distant countries. It is important to remember that if we insist on a later arrival time in the UK, a plane may have to leave the Far East later at night and that may cause a problem there. My noble friend talked about quieter and noisier aircraft. A quota system takes into account the noisiest aircraft, which cannot fly until later in the day.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, can the Minister give an assurance that, when the Government conduct their assessment into whether to allow more night flights, they will take into account the economic disbenefits, as well as the effects of sleep deprivation and other social effects of night flights, set against the economic benefits that may come from having more planes arriving earlier?
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, is the Minister aware that more and more flights from Scotland are being cancelled by airlines so that they can free up slots for other destinations? Is it not about time that the Government stopped dithering and made a decision to go ahead with a new runway at Heathrow?
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that the noise problem is not confined to Heathrow Airport? There are considerable problems with noise over Stansted Airport, for example, and I declare an interest as a supporter of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign. Can he say whether the Civil Aviation Bill, which is shortly to be introduced in this House, will take any account of this issue and whether it will contain any provisions for strengthening the regime that limits night flights?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, as currently drafted, the Bill does not say anything about night flights, although the noble Baroness might tempt me with an amendment. It is important to understand that the problem of Heathrow is much greater than that of the other two London airports. Some 228,000 people are affected at Heathrow, whereas at Gatwick and Stansted the figure is only between 1,000 and 2,000, so the problem at Heathrow is much more serious. However, all three London airports have noise controls imposed by central government.
Lord Bradshaw: The work that I have done on the Civil Aviation Bill has shown me that there is a lot of spare capacity at Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Birmingham, an airport which I am just about to visit. The release of that capacity is dependent on improved surface connections to all four airports. I urge the Minister to look into that before we try to put everything into Heathrow and so get some of the traffic spread out because it is not all hub traffic.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Foulkes described the circumstances arising out of his question, such as the slotting of aircraft. The Minister replied to the issue of the slots but he never replied to the point about the dithering over the decision, for which the Government are responsible, about the third runway at Heathrow.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Minister may or may not be dithering about Heathrow, but the Government have certainly dithered on the aviation Bill when environmental issues have cropped up in relation to airports. Will he take note of the fact that we will use the opportunities provided by the aviation Bill to examine thoroughly the Government’s position on these important environmental matters? I am very pleased today to see how many people, right across the House, are concerned.