Heathrow Airport to set up a new Community Noise Forum, to help residents understand flight path issues

Heathrow Airport knows it has a real problem with aircraft noise, that could block its runway aspirations. The recent flight path changes and trials revealed a degree of anger and opposition to increased plane noise that stunned Heathrow staff. Thousands of people newly overflown, or under new concentrated flight paths, expressed their intense opposition to the noise nuisance inflicted on them. Heathrow, at its Consultative Committee meeting on 10th December, was keen to set up a new “Community Noise Forum” through which to try to defuse some of this local anger and dissatisfaction – and to try to win back some trust.  For many, the repeated half truths and worse from the airport mean trust has broken down irretrievably.  The minutes say:  “Even the CAA had been regarded by some as not entirely independent in the process.”  There is already a “Noise Forum” (which replaced the Heathrow Noise & Track Keeping Working Group (NTKWG)), but that only involves HACAN and not other community groups. The new plan is to get something started as soon as possible, to give the appropriate community members and local authorities access to the raw data on flight path dispersal and concentration. A suitable chairperson needs to be located.


Below are extracts from the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee minutes from 10th December 2014



Local engagement with the community was important and a Community Noise Forum had been set up (This was mentioned in September 2013 and perhaps earlier).

This is something different from the Noise Forum. [ “The Heathrow Noise Forum was established in January 2014 and brings together representatives from DfT, CAA, NATS, IATA, British Airways, Heathrow, noise pressure group HACAN and local authorities. The forum seeks to foster collaboration in noise management at Heathrow from a range of stakeholders.” from http://www.heathrowairport.com/noise/making-heathrow-quieter/our-noise-strategy ]

Cllr. Summers asked for further detail on the Community Noise Forum and how this would work.

Nigel Milton responded on the Community Noise Forum. Essentially, during the airspace trials, and certainly since they had finished, there was a lack of trust from resident communities in the data that Heathrow and NATS had provided. It had been argued with many residents that the trials had ceased, when they believed they were still ongoing.

In order to cut through this, representatives from various communities and local authorities would be brought together into a regular forum, whereby it could be potentially decided whether the data should be audited and what should be provided.  Even the CAA had been regarded by some as not entirely independent in the process.
At present, there were too many debates on what the data states. This made it difficult to advance the discussion.

In order to reach agreement on the data, it was felt that a new group should be set up, which involved those communities most affected and local authorities most impacted to see how data could be produced that people trusted.

Cllr Turrell referred to the Community Noise Forum. There was a wider aspect of communication with local residents, not only relating to noise but other issues too.
He said he would be particularly interested to learn what would be done to improve the communication. Also, when the residents would find out more about the noise forum, how it would relate to exiting arrangements, what it could mean for them and the timescale for implementation.

Nigel Milton replied that it was necessary to make progress quickly now the airspace trials had ceased.

Heathrow were in discussions to find the appropriate person to chair the meetings.

There was a balance to be sought between extending a large number of invitations.
It would be necessary to work through to identify who should attend from the local authorities – officers, councillors, or chairs or secretaries of residents’ associations. The forum needed to be set up early in the New Year

Cllr. Beer stated that the height of the aeroplanes during the airspace trials was of concern. The height of flight paths over the area of Old Windsor varied greatly from 1,500 ft. to 5,500 ft.

He also asked if the Community Noise Forum was the successor to the Noise & Track Keeping Working Group (NTKWG), which had been a useful group.

Cheryl Monk confirmed that the NTKWG had been replaced by the Heathrow Noise Forum which Matt Gorman, Heathrow Sustainability Director had set up.
Members include HACAN, NATS and the CAA.

The Community Noise Forum was an addition to that group, to enable local councillors and community representatives to attend and discuss noise issues.

The NTKWG was disbanded due to lack of attendance by its membership. The data that was provided at the meetings was still available and published
on the Heathrow website.

6. Nigel Milton stated that Heathrow were aware that a breakdown of trust existed between the residents and the authorities.

With the Community Noise Forum, it was the intention to bring the community and local authorities in and give them access to the raw data on dispersal and concentration. It was hoped this would create trust in the data, to enable policy discussions to follow.

…. these are extracts from the Consultative Committee minutes of 10.12.2014 here …




Heathrow Airport’s Noise page says (no mention of the Community Noise Forum yet):

Working with local communities

For communities affected by aircraft noise, effective engagement with the airport operator is an essential component of tackling the problem – helping communities to understand the challenge of aircraft noise better and what is being done to address it, and providing residents with the opportunity to actively shape the policies and procedures that are put in place to tackle it.

Heathrow will engage openly and constructively with local communities to understand their concerns and provide accessible information and an on-going dialogue.

Our commitments are to:

  • aim to continually improve our global ranking for community engagement on aircraft noise, benchmarked by independent analysis. We will achieve this by:
    • improving our communications to provide timely, relevant information including daily web updates and the use of computer animations;
    • extending our outreach programme, running regular meetings with communities around the airport to explain how we are managing noise at Heathrow; and
    • launching a new social media service to keep people updated on unscheduled changes to operations which impact on noise.
    • continue to improve the timely handling of complaints about noise from residents, building on existing investment we have made in this area.
    • produce proposals for the ‘independent regulation’ of noise to help build trust in the management of noise at Heathrow.

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