Following sustained pressure from Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor, Heathrow finally admitted changes to flight paths that have inflicted more flights and greater noise on residents in Ascot, Binfield, Bracknell Forest, Cheapside, Sunninghill, Warfield and other nearby areas.
John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow wrote in a letter to Mr Afriyie “I recognise that as an airport community we have let you down in this instance. We need to do better to be a good neighbour and I would like to unequivocally apologise to you and your constituents.”
Commenting on the letter from Heathrow, Mr Afriyie said:
“I am deeply concerned on behalf of the residents who have suffered from extra aircraft noise without so much as a warning.
“What beggars belief is Heathrow’s insulting accusation that residents were imagining the extra noise!
“So I’d like to thank residents and councillors, especially Councillor David Hilton, whose letters and complaints have helped to force Heathrow into an apology.
“Heathrow must take the blame for misleading residents and being dismissive of their concerns. And I now call on Heathrow and NATS to release all flightpath data on arrivals, which Heathrow is yet to disclose to me.
“Heathrow has either been wilfully misleading or rather incompetent. Heathrow and NATS have serious questions to answer and must be held to account in Parliament. I am writing now to the Transport Secretary so he can look into this worrying development.
“This is just a glimpse of the huge disruption that will be faced if a third runway is given the go-ahead. I am not surprised that residents do not trust what Heathrow say.”
Heathrow says it did not know flight path changes were continuing – blames NATS for not telling them
Heathrow and NATS had flight path trials during summer 2014, which ended on 12th November, due to intense opposition. See details. But complaints have continued and people have been adamant that the trials have not ended. Heathrow has given assurance after assurance that the trials have ceased, implying people are imagining the noise – or have become over-sensitive to it. Now Heathrow and NATS have had to apologise. Heathrow says it did not know the trial affecting the “Compton” route to the south west and west of Heathrow had not ended, as NATS had not informed them. As NATS and Heathrow work closely together, that is very hard to believe. Even if it could be credible, it reveals a markedly dismissive attitude to the thousands of upset residents, who have complained week after week. The airport had made no apparent effort to establish the facts, for many months. The areas particularly affected by this change are Virginia Water, Ascot, Binfield and some parts of Bracknell, which are experiencing a concentrated flight path. John Holland-Kaye said: “Because of the assurances we received [from NATS], we in turn told residents in good faith that no changes had occurred. That is unacceptable and I unequivocally apologise to local residents.” However, NATS say they changed the route to improve the safe and efficient management of traffic departing from Heathrow and they are not planning to revert to previous procedures.
Dr Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell, says Heathrow and NATS claims on flight paths “outrageous and unacceptable”
The MP for Bracknell, Dr Phillip Lee called staff from NATS and the airport to a meeting at the House of Commons on Wednesday 18th March, to answer questions about flight path changes affecting his constituency. He asked Jane Johnston, head of corporate affairs at NATS, and Heathrow senior staff to explain the situation of increased aircraft noise, and Heathrow’s claim that they did not know there had been a change. Since the start of the “procedural change” to flights on the Compton route, there has been a huge degree of protest by affected residents, with thousands of complaints made. Heathrow repeatedly told people who complained about noise that “trials” ended on 12th November. Only now, four months later, has it emerged that these procedural changes continued, and NATS has no intention of reverting to the previous system, before June 2014. Dr Lee was told that NATS “didn’t make the connection” between the changes, and the increased complaints. The staff told Dr Lee they were simply following procedure. Dr Lee said: “This is a wholly outrageous and unacceptable situation. Given all the publicity that surrounded the additional noise caused by the flight path trials, I find it completely unbelievable that these changes in the procedures were simply overlooked by NATS as a possible cause for increased activity over residents’ homes.”