“We didn’t think you’d notice”: Heathrow ‘apologises’ for not informing residents of new flight paths

Matt Gorman, the sustainability director of Heathrow airport, has told people in the Bracknell and Ascot areas why they were not given notice of the flight path trials overhead. He said: “We didn’t go as far as sending letters out to all the people that would be affected as we did not feel people would notice any change.” This is scarcely credible, unless Heathrow does not follow the news about rival Gatwick at all. The flight path trials at Gatwick have provoked massive opposition, with thousands highly angry and upset. Gatwick also decided not to give the public prior warning of their trial. At a Gatwick Consultative Committee meeting in January 2014, Gatwick’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, said: “If people were aware of the trial it was possible that they would be more alert to changes and feel obliged to comment.”  That backfired spectacularly. Another classic Heathrow comment recently, from Nigel Milton, to a meeting in Stanwell on 15th September, when asked why past Heathrow promises were allowed to be broken said: “The people who made those promises weren’t in a position to make these promises.” But the comment was made by the then BAA chairman, Sir John Egan. So Heathrow chairmen’s promises should not be taken seriously?

PR disaster?  Especially as airports always hope that more “dialogue with residents” will stop them being so upset about the noise …..


RESIDENTS in the Bracknell area were not warned there would be noisy aircraft roaring over their homes because it was thought they would not notice, a Heathrow Airport boss has said.

The airport introduced new flighpaths over our area as part of a controversial five-month trial last month, without informing either residents or Bracknell Forest Council.

Since then, Heathrow has been swamped with complaints from people living in the Bracknell and Ascot area about the sudden noise invasion.

More than 4,700 have so far signed a petition and a public meeting, attended by airport bosses, will be held next month.

Matthew Gorman, sustainability director [sic]  at the airport, said: “We didn’t go as far as sending letters out to all the people that would be affected as we did not feel people would notice any change.”

Heathrow is experimenting with path changes and new technology systems in a bid to reduce ‘stacking’ in the air and speed up departure times.

It has admitted that the strength of feeling across Bracknell and Ascot had been stronger than it expected and also greater than other areas where it had previously carried out trial flighpaths.

Heathrow is trying out trial flightpaths in different areas in a bid to spread the noise disturbance to residents in South East England.

It is also hoped that reducing stacking would result in a reduction in noise pollution.

Mr Gorman explained: “We’ve been told by the Government to plan how the airspace will be used in the future in order to help coordinate travel. Not just in the UK but across Europe.

“We will take stock of the feedback as we start to redesign before 2016.”

Warfield resident Judy Martin said: “I am not at all happy about it. I have lived in Warfield for over 20 years and it’s never been like this.

“Siting in the garden today the flights are continous and much lower that they ever have been. We are never without the noise of one passing over and the next arriving.

“Sometimes you have to stop your conversation as you can’t hear each other speak.”

Annoyed at not being told in advance of the changes, Bracknell Forest councillors passed a motion last Wednesday demanding Heathrow inform the council of future changes and to consider the views of the borough’s residents.

Heathrow has now apologised to the council.

However, the council has stopped short of calling for the trials to end. Cllr Chris Turrell, Bracknell Forest’s main representative on the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (HACC), said:

“Heathrow clearly did not understand the impact these trials would have.

“They are Heathrow’s trials and it’s important for residents to inform them what the implications are. Residents should have hard facts provided to them.”

Mr Gorman says that the airport has received some positive feedback on the trials from elsewhere and said: “We have received a significant number of complaints, but it should be said that some people say they have noticed the noise has improved in their area. Some people have more noise above but others have got less planes flying overhead.

“That’s the challenge of running these trials, I apologise that some people are unhappy with the trials but they will not last forever.” [The trials, by definition, will not last for ever. Of course. But the intention is that these flight paths, once introduced formally, would last for a very long time indeed. This comment from Matt really would not  be acceptable, from an honest company. AirportWatch comment]. 






PR disaster No 2:

Another of Heathrow’s memorable statements:

At a meeting in Stanwell on  15.9.2014   (Get Surrey http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/pollution-concerns-raised-heathrow-expansion-7778746)

Beryl Wilkins, a retired teacher, questioned why past promises were allowed to be broken, including an inspector who had said in a consultation meeting that Terminal 4 would be the last.

Nigel Milton, director of policy and political relations for Heathrow, said: “The people who made those promises weren’t in a position to make these promises.”

[The comment had been made by the Chairman of BAA a the time, Sir John Egan. He was CEO of BAA from 1990 to 1999

In a ‘Dear Neighbour’ letter to residents (April 1999) Sir John Egan writes: “We have since repeated often that we do not want, nor shall we seek, an additional runway. I can now report that we went even further at the Inquiry and called on the Inspector to recommend that, subject to permission being given for T5, an additional Heathrow runway should be ruled out forever. ” ]   see  http://www.foe.co.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/heathrow_broken_promises.pdf

So we cannot trust anything Heathrow says, if we are later told we cannot believe any statement by the Chairman of the company?



Also,  at a Heathrow Public Discussion Session set up by the Airports Commission on 3.12.2014, John Holland-Kaye said this: 

III. Past Mistakes

“I would like to start by recognising some of the mistakes of the past. I have spoken to local people about our plans for the future and many have pointed to a commitment made by BAA and Heathrow in the past. I have read the community leaflets distributed by the airport almost 20 years ago, which committed to permanently rule out a third runway at Heathrow. I am shocked by that commitment. It should never have been made and it could never be kept. That is not an excuse; it  is an apology. I am sorry that Heathrow made that commitment.  It has hung over the relationship with local communities and has led to a deficit of trust that can only be repaired by demonstrating that we are a different company than in the past.”

Page 3 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/386011/heathrow-area-transcript.pdf


PR disaster No 3:

A similar statement by Gatwick airport, which indicates Heathrow knew only too well that people would notice their flight path change:

A recent meeting of the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (GATCOM) said, discussing whether residents should be warned of the trial in advance 30th January 2014:

“It was felt that parish councils in particular should be advised of trial to enable them to respond to their constituents if problems arose. Mr. Denton [Head of Corporate Responsibility at Gatwick] would consider this but emphasised the need to obtain genuine feedback from those affected. If people were aware of the trial it was possible that they would be more alert to changes and feel obliged to comment.”  

ie. don’t warn them, because they might complain.