Heathrow is to spend hundreds of millions of pounds in an attempt to buy off local opposition to a proposed third runway, with plans to use a massive new fund to compensate homeowners and insulate homes and public buildings against aircraft noise.
With the airport set to publish detailed plans on Tuesday for a new runway to the north-west of its current perimeter, it is prepared to pay premium prices for properties in its path as well as to offer unprecedented sums for sound insulation from a £550m fund.
Around 750 homes would be compulsorily purchased and demolished if the scheme goes ahead. Heathrow would offer an exceptional 25% over the unblighted value of the houses (averaging £250,000) along with legal fees and stamp duty incurred for the purchase of new homes.
Allowing for a potential 15% rise in house prices, Heathrow would expect to spend at least £250m on soundproofing homes and schools – compared with only £30m it has spent on insulating properties in the last 20 years.
The third runway at Heathrow is the bookmakers’ favourite to be selected from three airport schemes shortlisted by the Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies. An alternative Heathrow development proposed by the Heathrow Hub group, which owns options on land nearby, and a second Gatwick runway are still under consideration, along with the possible 11th-hour reinstatement of a new Thames estuary airport thought up by London mayor Boris Johnson.
A final recommendation will be made after the 2015 general election, although no party has pledged to implement Davies’s findings.
Noise has long been a pivotal issue around Heathrow, with surrounding boroughs such as Hounslow resisting expansion. Many residents report being woken daily at 5am by the first arriving flight, while teachers in schools under the flightpaths say lessons are frequently rendered inaudible by incoming planes.
Heathrow is planning another public consultation in July to decide how the money should be divided up. The size of the fund could conceivably see grants for insulation in areas beyond the “noise contour” of what was traditionally considered persistent disturbance.
A source said: “We want people to work with us to decide how that should be implemented. There are choices to be made on whether we focus resources on high noise areas or spread them thinner and further, whether it should be residential or community buildings. Do we insulate all schools to a gold standard, or would schools rather spend the money on better facilities?”
On Tuesday, Heathrow will publish a 400-page document setting out a revised plan for the third runway, slightly farther south than set out last year but still obliterating most of the village of Harmondsworth. The airport will also include a report from a public consultation underlining its belief that the alternative Heathrow Hub proposal – based on former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe’s vision of elongating the two existing runways for landing and takeoff, would be even more fiercely resisted locally, as it would jeopardise periods of respite for residents under the flightpaths.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow, said: “We are committed to treating those most affected by a third runway fairly. Since the previous runway plan was rejected in 2010 we have listened to ideas for how we could improve our proposals. We recognise that the expansion of Heathrow deserves an exceptional compensation scheme. That’s why we’re going further than statutory schemes or government guidance.”
John Stewart, of Hacan (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), who chaired the coalition of anti-third runway protests last time round, said Heathrow’s move would mark “a whole new approach”. He said: “We’d always welcome generous terms of compensation and mitigation, but this has all the desperation of trying to buy off the opposition. Whether this will actually get Heathrow the third runway they desperately desire is very much open to question. Their newfound generosity is a clear sign that they are still not confident that they can get a third runway approved, agreed and built.”
But, he admitted: “Heathrow are playing a much cleverer game – we’ve never seen this sort of approach. For us, it’s a tougher and very different challenge.”
Heathrow is also proposing a congestion charge for drivers going to the airport, in an attempt to address concerns about air quality. While Heathrow constantly breaches EU limits for nitrogen dioxide levels in the air, it stresses that road traffic causes similar pollution around London.
The charge would aim to keep car use at current levels, even if a third runway was built, although Heathrow says it would only want a scheme to be implemented once upgrades to public transport links had been completed – including Crossrail and a new link to the Great Western mainline.
Some recent news stories on Heathrow and its noise:
Heathrow suggests congestion charge for vehicles – to try and keep within air quality limits
Heathrow will announce its north- west runway plan on Tuesday 13th May. They have no interest in the Jock Lowe Heathrow Hub option. Heathrow is aware that as well as noise, air pollution is a show – stopper issue for their hopes of a new runway. Hence they are now suggesting to the Airports Commission that there should be a congestion charge for people travelling to Heathrow by car – after the public transport has been set up (largely at public expense). Some of the money raised may go towards public transport. Heathrow is trying to make out there will not only be no more noise caused by a 3rd runway, but no more road vehicles than now. They depend on emissions standards for NOx for new cars becoming tighter in future. Expansion of Heathrow would mean massive road congestion in the area. The Standard reports that Heathrow is moving its planned north-west runway slightly south, in order to avoid the M25 and M4 junction. To make way for the new runway to the north west of the airport, Heathrow will build a 600-metre tunnel taking traffic under the M25. A tunnel would run alongside the motorway – and be part-funded by Government.
Heathrow business case looks shaky if it had to give almost £100 million per year noise compensation to households
April 3, 2014
Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia says Heathrow’s business case is beginning to look very shaky. Heathrow’s owners would have to spend £100 million every year to households around the airport if it is to match Gatwick’s new noise compensation offer. In its PR efforts to win over local opposition, Gatwick has offered to pay £1,000 each to existing homes inside a 57 decibel catchment around the airport, once (if) a 2nd runway is built. This would include 4,100 homes, and the cost would be £4.1 million per year. Wandsworth calculates payments on this scale would cost Heathrow about £100 million per year. Gatwick has also offered to pay up to 2,000 qualifying local households a one-off grant of up to £3,000 towards noise insulation. If Heathrow was to match the terms of this scheme it could cost the airport a further £210 million per year. M r Govindia said the Airports Commission must give proper consideration to the “real noise impact of an airport set in the most densely populated part of the country. ….Once you weigh the real environmental costs – and those for improved surface access – against the claimed benefits of an additional runway, Heathrow’s business case begins to look very shaky.” Click here to view full story…
ANASE study on attitudes to aircraft noise to be updated to show real impact of Heathrow flight paths
February 24, 2014
The Sunday Times reports that on 26th February the researchers who worked on the ANASE (Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England) study of the effect of aircraft noise will publish an updated report. The 2007 ANASE was an expensive and extensive study, looking at what levels of aircraft noise annoyed people being overflown. It found that, contrary to the “prevailing wisdom” the widely used 57 decibel contour was not the actual threshold of community annoyance. In reality, much lower noise levels caused annoyance, and also upset and disturbed people. The research suggests that significant annoyance starts at about 50dB. The reality is that many areas (including Putney, Battersea, East Sheen, Barnes and Ealing), which are not included in the 57dB contour are badly affected by aircraft noise.The ANASE study was shelved, partly due to methodological criticisms. Now it is being updated and published by councils opposed to an increased number of flights over London, if Heathrow was to be allowed another runway. Researchers say subsequent European research into aircraft noise backs its initial ANASE findings. Click here to view full story…
Even if only 10% of those newly overflown by a 3rd Heathrow runway are deeply disturbed by the noise, that is 15,000 more people
February 11, 2014
In a recent blog, John Stewart considers the issue that is key for Heathrow airport – noise – and how it can affect people differently. Some people are much more bothered and distressed by it than others. The airport is currently carrying out focus group research in an attempt to find more about these differences. Currently there are over 725,000 people under Heathrow flight paths; a 3rd north-west runway would add around another 150,000 = total 875,000. What is much less clear is how many of these people are, or will be, deeply disturbed by aircraft noise. Research from Germany indicates that about 10% of people are much more noise sensitive than others. It is know that people will be more annoyed by noise if they believe it is not good for them. Also if they feel they have no control over the noise or cannot stop it getting worse. Noise is less disturbing when people believe the authorities are doing everything they can to reduce the problem. Heathrow believes around 10% of those who would be newly over-flown by a new runway’s flight paths would be deeply disturbed. The numbers are huge. 10% means an extra 15,000 people. Considering those under flight paths for all 3 runways, 10% means 87,000 people (out of the 875,000 overflown). Even 5% is 43,000 people seriously upset by the noise. That is a pretty terrifying statistic.