Heathrow’s plans to end 60-year-old gentlemen’s agreement over Cranford could be prevented by Hillingdon Council
Officers at Hillingdon Council are recommending refusal of Heathrow’s planning application, which would enable regular take-offs over Cranford (a residential area just east of Heathrow’s northern runway). There has been a 60-year old gentlemen’s agreement that planes do not take off over Cranford, which would become an impossible place to live, if take-offs to the east were allowed. This was a verbal agreement made in 1952. Heathrow has applied to Hillingdon Council for permission to carry out the necessary taxi-way work to enable scheduled departures to the east from the northern runway. Hillingdon Councillors are due to make their decision at a Planning meeting on 11th February, but officers have recommended refusal on the grounds too little compensation has been offered to mitigate the impact of extra noise on residents and schools in Cranford and surrounding areas. The Cranford Agreement was repealed in 2009 by the Labour government to reduce the noise burden on those to the airport’s west, in Windsor and Maidenhead, who consequently have to put up with more planes overhead.
Location of Cranford, east of the Heathrow northern runway
Heathrow’s plans to end 60-year-old gentlemen’s agreement could be grounded
Officers at Hillingdon Council recommend refusal of Heathrow Airport’s planning application, which would enable regular take-offs over Cranford
Plans to allow aircraft to regularly take off over Cranford, ending a 60-year old gentlemen’s agreement, could be grounded.
Heathrow Airport has applied to Hillingdon Council for permission to carry out the necessary taxi-way work to enable scheduled departures to the east from the northern runway.
Councillors are due to make their decision next Tuesday (February 11), but officers have recommended refusal on the grounds too little compensation has been offered to mitigate the impact of extra noise on residents and schools in Cranford and surrounding areas.
“Officers do not consider that the application properly assesses noise impacts and these are considered to be crucial in the light of impacts on the health and wellbeing of residents or on educational establishments (local schools),” they wrote.
“The application also fails to provide adequate mitigation for those who are acknowledged to suffer from significant increases in noise.”
The Cranford Agreement was a verbal deal struck in 1952 preventing departures from Heathrow over Cranford because it was considered the noise would be unbearable for those living so close to the northern runway.
It was repealed in 2009 by the then Labour government to reduce the noise burden on those to the airport’s west, in Windsor and Maidenhead, who consequently have to put up with more planes overhead.
Heathrow estimates ending the agreement would mean more noise for 4,000 people to the east of the airport but quieter days for 10,500 to the west, though Hillingdon Council believes the adverse impact has been underestimated.
Hounslow Council has raised concerns about the impact on schools under the northern flight path, describing the proposed mitigation measures as inadequate.
But it stopped short of opposing the planning application outright as it recognises there would be benefits for some of its residents living under the southern flight path, particularly those in and around Hatton Cross.
Parents at Cranford Primary School, which lies under the northern flight path have started a petition against ending the Cranford Agreement in practice.
Gulvinder Bains, whose nine-year-old daughter attends the school, said: “The noise is already quite bad but if these plans get the go-ahead it would be a lot worse. We’re worried about the impact on the quality of children’s playground time.”
WHAT DOES ENDING THE CRANFORD AGREEMENT MEAN?
Under runway alternation, planes use one runway for departures and the other for arrivals, with the roles reversing at 3pm every day.
Aircraft must take off and land into the wind. Most of the time this means they depart to the west but during easterly winds, which happen about 30 per cent of the time, they have to take-off to the east, over London.
Because the Cranford Agreement has historically prevented take-offs over the village from the northern runway, during easterly winds planes have to use the southern runway for departures and the northern one for arrivals – even if this means switching the roles designated under runway alternation.
Ending the agreement in practice, as Heathrow wants to do, would enable runway alternation to operate uninterrupted regardless of the wind – guaranteeing residents their alloted period of peace.
It would mean quieter days for thousands of people to the west of the airport and although it would lead to more noise for people in Cranford, supporters argue that quieter planes mean the din would be less deafening than when the agreement was signed more than 60 years ago.
However, there are concerns the move would pave the way for mixed mode, under which each runway could be used simultaneously for departures and arrivals.
Mixed mode could reduce delays and potentially allow more flights at the airport, though the current cap of 480,000 arrivals and departures a year would first have to be lifted.
It is not presently allowed and Heathrow has said it has no desire to introduce it, even should it get the go-ahead for a third runway.
But officers at Hillingdon Council have suggested should councillors approve the planning application to enable take-offs over Cranford that a clause preventing mixed mode ought to be inserted.
A limited number of aircraft have already taken off over Cranford since the agreement ended in 2009, during so-called ‘operational freedom’ trials.
These allowed both runways to be used for departures or both for arrivals for a short period when delays were building up, in a bid to reduce the backlog.
Enabling works to allow implementation of full runway alternation during easterly operations at Heathrow Airport including the creation of a new ‘hold area’ at the western end of the northern runway, the construction of new access and exit taxiways, and the construction of a 5 metre high acoustic noise barrier to the south of Longford Village.
Recommendation : Refusal
The 116 Page officer’s report for consideration by the Major planning applications Committee of Hillingdon Council has now appeared on their website as part of the agenda for the Tuesday 11th February meeting :
Date Application Received: 17 May 2013
Report of the Head of Planning, Green Spaces and Culture
The application seeks permission for physical works to land next to the north and south
runways at Heathrow Airport. The works include the creation of a new ‘hold area’, new
access and exit taxiways and a noise barrier (acoustic fence) on land adjacent to the airport.
The development on the runways would normally be carried out under Permitted
Development rights. However, these rights are removed if the development triggers the
need for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) by virtue of giving rise to likely
significant environmental effects. Whilst the physical works are relatively minor, they enable
Heathrow Airport Limited to implement the ending of the Cranford Agreement. As a
consequence, the works will directly result in operational changes to the airport that are
likely to have significant noise and air quality effects in the context of the EIA Regulations
Currently, the airport has significant restrictions on the use of the northern runway for
departures over Cranford. This was a result of a ministerial decision in 1952 to protect the
residents of Cranford from adverse noise impacts from the airport. In 2009 the Government
announced the ending of the Cranford Agreement; however the airport cannot change its
operations until the physical infrastructure works have been completed.
This planning application is for the necessary enabling works to Heathrow’s northern runway
to be fully used for take-offs to the east over the village of Cranford. These works will
therefore effectively implement the Government’s decision to end the Cranford Agreement.
The applicant presents the case that the full runway alternation provides a more equitable
distribution of the adverse impacts of noise, and potentially allows more respite periods to
be scheduled for those under the flight paths to the west of the airport.
The Council accepts that there are large numbers of people, particularly in the Royal
Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who will benefit from greater periods of respite from
noise when plays take off to the east over Cranford. However, the Council needs to
carefully consider the impact on those who will experience a significant increase in noise.
The submitted planning material tries to identify and assess the environmental implications of the proposals, and suggests ways by which compensation could be offered or mitigation introduced. It also makes references to modern planes now being quieter.
However, as set out in this report, the submitted technical material is considered inadequate and insufficient in a number of areas. Officers do not consider that the application properly assesses noise impacts and these are considered to be crucial in light of the impacts on the health and well being of residents or on educational establishments (local schools). The application also fails to provide adequate mitigation for those who are acknowledged to suffer from significant increases in noise.
It is also considered that aircraft operations facilitated by the development would result in a
significant and unacceptable worsening of local air quality, to the detriment of the health of
the local population. No specific or adequate mitigation measures are proposed as part of
the application to address this concern.
The Environmental Statement does not comply with the 2011 Environmental Impact
Assessment Regulations as it does not adequately assess the effects of the development. It also does not adequately consider cumulative impacts with other proposed operational
changes. The applicant does not consider it necessary to assess the cumulative impacts
with those recommended by the Airports Commission because no decision has been made to proceed with them yet. The applicant argues it is simply a recommendation for the
Department for Transport to consider. The Council does not agree with this approach.
There is clear guidance on what should be encompassed by a cumulative assessment.
The Council considers the recommendations of the Airports Commission to be suitably advanced to be captured by the Infrastructure Planning Commissions definition of cumulative development.
Although not explicit in the application, (nor assessed in terms of environmental impact), the proposed works could facilitate the introduction of ‘mixed-mode’ operations and other
operational changes recommended by the Airports Commission to the Department for
Transport albeit within the existing cap of 480,000 air traffic movements per annum and
night time operating constraints. If the applicant were to apply for mixed-mode operations
this would raise significant concerns given the potentially serious and adverse noise impact that this would have on local communities.
With this in mind, if Members are minded to approve this application, Officers would strongly recommend that a condition is imposed on the planning permission which prohibits mixed-mode operations and those recommended by the Airports Commission.
Finally, part of the Longford noise barrier is to be constructed within the Green Belt. As a
consequence, the applicant is required to demonstrate very special circumstance. No such
justification has been presented and therefore this part of the development is considered
Refusal is recommended.
All documents associated with the application are at http://planning.hillingdon.gov.uk/OcellaWeb/planningDetails?reference=41573/APP/2013/1288&from=planningSearch