What Heathrow’s 3rd runway proposal says on noise (not very convincing)

Heathrow’s publicity document on its 3rd runway plans has quite a lot on noise, as Heathrow realises that the noise generated by its aircraft is a key political topic, and is perhaps the main issue that would stop the runway. Having a new runway would mean the number of annual flights could increase by up to 260,000 per year (compared to the current 470,000 or so). This would inevitably create a huge amount more noise. But by only considering the people within the loudest noise contours (noise averaged over many hours each day) – the 57dBALeq countour and the 55dbLden contour – and not those who experience aircraft noise, but not quite as loudy, Heathrow claims fewer people will experience noise. This is manifestly not the truth. There may be slightly fewer, by massaging the figures, in the noisiest contours. But there will be many more experiencing aircraft noise, if not at the most intense levels. Already people miles from the airport, outside any current contour, are troubled and disturbed by aircraft noise.  The document provides various maps and charts to try and make their point. The concept of respite periods is key in Heathrow’s attempts to win over the over-flown public, and those yet to be over-flown.


Extracts from the Heathrow press release, relating to noise :

Press release  (13.5.2014) at    link …….

“We’ve listened to local views and developed a significantly different expansion proposition to 2007, and an improvement on our initial proposal in July 2013:

  • By 2030, at least a 30% reduction in the number of people in Heathrow’s noise footprint to deliver the lowest noise levels since the 1970s.
  • 12,000 fewer people will be affected by significant noise by moving the proposed runway farther south.
  • A total compensation fund of over £550m allocated for noise insulation and property compensation.

John Holland-Kaye, Development Director and Chief Executive Designate of Heathrow said:

“ ….. We have worked closely with local residents, listened to their concerns and improved our plans. Our submission reduces the number of properties that would need to be purchased and the number of people affected by significant noise. We would establish a fund to enhance local amenities and compensate residents more generously than previous UK infrastructure projects.”


“Heathrow’s 10 commitments

If Government supports a third runway we will:

  1. Reduce aircraft noise and lessen noise impacts for people under flight paths

by encouraging the world’s quietest aircraft to use Heathrow, routing aircraft higher over London, delivering periods with no aircraft overhead and allocating £250m to provide noise insulation

That’s all there is …..

In the Heathrow document “Taking Britain further” here are the relevant extracts on noise:


  •  (Page 20)

People expressed a clear preference for a scheme that would continue to provide periods of relief from noise over a scheme that would not expose new people to noise but would end periods of relief from noise.”


( Page 23) We have located the runway further south which reduces noise impacts and protects more homes and important heritage sites such as the Great Barn and St. Mary’s Church in Harmondsworth. The number of people affected by significant noise will reduce by at least 12,000 compared to our submission last July. . (Page 30) “Locating the runway further south allows noise impacts to be minimised By locating the third runway further south 12,000 fewer people are exposed to high levels of aircraft noise. In total at least 30% fewer people will be affected by significant aircraft noise than today. Our consultation showed local people have a preference for flights to be routed so that there are significant periods of relief from noise rather than an approach that does not expose new communities to noise but does not provide respite from noise.”


(Page 38) “A third runway should only go ahead within environmental limits

People have legitimate concerns about what the environmental impact of a new runway would be. A third runway should only go ahead within strict environmental limits on noise, local air quality and within the UK’s climate change targets. .

There isn’t a choice between more flights or less noise

There isn’t a choice between more flights or less noise. Heathrow can deliver both. Heathrow is significantly quieter than it was in the past. Since the early 1970s [that is because Concorde was spectacularly noisy, and when it went, the noise levels went down significantly. The reduction is far less, if Concorde is removed from all the figures. AW comment] both the area and the number of people within Heathrow’s noise footprint have fallen around tenfold, despite the number of flights doubling. Our proposals for a third runway at Heathrow will see noise reductions continue. Even with a third runway, we estimate that in 2030 there will be at least 30% fewer people in total within Heathrow’s noise footprint than today. This is based on the Government’s preferred 57dBA Leq noise measurement. Using the 55db Lden measurement preferred by European policymakers would deliver a reduction of about 45% in the number of people exposed to noise. In addition, there would be a 60% reduction in the number of people exposed to night noise. This would deliver the lowest noise levels around Heathrow since the 1960s.

A new runway location and landing approaches to reduce noise 

Our proposal sites a third runway one nautical mile further to the west than the previous proposal for a short third runway [Sipson]. Every mile further west an aircraft lands means it is flying approximately 300 feet higher over London on its landing approach. We plan to use steeper landing approaches and have aircraft touch down 700 metres further along all runways than they do today. This will mean that aircraft will be flying higher as they approach Heathrow, reducing noise impacts for all local communities.

Quieter aircraft

We charge noisier aircraft more to land at Heathrow and quieter aircraft less. We propose a phasing out of the noisiest aircraft (known as Chapter 3) and no Boeing 747-400 aircraft by the time a new runway opens. 90% of aircraft at Heathrow will be ‘next generation’ technology like the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 NEO by the time the new runway opens. We also support the introduction of ‘green slots’ where new capacity is only given to airlines willing to operate quieter aircraft

[This completely ignores, conveniently but rather under-handedly, the fact that people are affected by aircraft noise at much lower levels than 57dBALeq  or 55dbLden.  People complain frequently, and genuinely, in areas now with lower levels of noise.  The Heathrow plans depend on areas with noise below 55dbLden being considered not to have a noise problem. In reality, thousands more people would be overflown at these levels of noise – even if not at the really noisy 57dB level. AW comment]. . Heathrow noise Larger version   http://www.heathrowairport.com/static/HeathrowAboutUs/Downloads/PDF/taking_britain_further.pdf   Page 38 .  

(Page 39) “There are different options for redesigning airspace

Adding a third runway at Heathrow would require airspace to be redesigned. This would include the redesign of arrivals and departures flight paths for Heathrow. The main objective when redesigning airspace would be to minimise and where possible reduce the impact of noise. “However, there are choices in how airspace could be redesigned to achieve this objective. The table to the left (see below) illustrates how many people would be affected by noise compared to 2011 if airspace was designed in three different ways. “While we recognise that determining which approach should be pursued is ultimately a matter for Government we believe that maximising periods of noise relief offers clear advantages. This approach would cut the number of people inside the noise contour by at least 30% while delivering the periods of relief from noise which people expressed a clear preference for in our recent consultation.”


Heathrow noise numbers table

. (Page 40) “Periods of respite from noise for every community

In contrast to the previous proposal for a short third runway we have maintained the principle of runway alternation. This provides periods of respite from noise for all communities around Heathrow. Our consultation showed local people have a preference for airspace to be designed so that there are significant periods of relief from noise. People consider this to be a more important consideration than exposing people to noise for the first time.”

“We are not proposing extra night flights, and there will be fewer night flights on existing flight-paths

Night flights are an important part of operations at a hub airport but also a significant concern for local residents. Of the major European hub airports, Heathrow has the strictest limits on operations between 11pm and 6am and the fewest flights. Our plans do not propose any extra night flights and would reduce the number of night flights on existing flight-paths. Because we are proposing to rotate use of the runways at night.” Heathrow 5 steps to noise reduction . Heathrow  new and old noise 1 “This means that residents under existing flight  paths would have night flights only every third week rather than every other week at the moment. This means that areas such as Richmond would experience fewer night flights with a third runway than today.

“New noise insulation and compensation   (Page 41)

“Heathrow currently operates one of Europe’s largest noise insulation schemes. More than 40,000 properties are eligible for some form of noise insulation. In areas of high noise or in areas experiencing a significant increase in noise we believe that free noise insulation should be offered to residents. Over the last 20 years Heathrow has spent £30m on insulating homes, schools and community buildings from noise. Our previous proposal for a third runway allocated £90m for noise insulation. Now, we are proposing a £250m fund to pay for free noise insulation and  compensation for people in high noise areas if a third runway goes ahead. We will now work with a panel of local community representatives to develop more detailed proposals for noise insulation and compensation before consulting more widely in the summer.


A fair property compensation scheme

We are committed to treating those most affected by a third runway fairly. We recognise that the compulsory purchase of 750 homes is a significant undertaking and that such circumstances deserve exceptional compensation for residents. We are proposing that anyone whose home needs to be compulsorily purchased will receive 25% above unblighted market value compensation plus legal fees and stamp duty costs on their new home. We will be asking for further views on whether this represents a fair package of compensation in our consultation. For the houses lost to the airport development, we will help fund replacement housing schemes within land already earmarked for development by local authorities