Last week, the Sir Howard Davies-led commission concluded that while the “best answer” to solving Britain’s looming aviation capacity crisis is a third runway at the West London airport, it should only be built if accompanied bystrict measures on noise and air pollution.
These included a ban on all flights between 11.30pm and 6.00am, a legally-enforced “noise envelope”, and that Heathrow should be held to its pledge to spend over £1bn on community compensation.
Asked whether the airport would commit to the recommendations, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said on Monday it was “still assessing” Sir Howard’s conclusions.
“We’ll have to see how it fits into all the other things we’re doing, I’m not sure that the commission understood everything that we do today, but I’m sure there is a package in there that we can agree with our local communities, with the airlines and with Government,” he said.
David Cameron, the prime minister, has said a decision will be made by the end of the year on whether to implement Sir Howard’s politically divisive recommendations.
Previous attempts to expand Heathrow have been scuppered by environmental concerns, particularly about the impact of air pollution and noise on communities around the airport, which Sir Howard has attempted to address with his proposals.
The commission also recommended last week that a congestion charge at Heathrow “should” be considered as part of the mitigating measures accompanying a third runway.
While Heathrow has also proposed a charge in the past, Mr Holland-Kaye, who was speaking at the Runways UK conference, all but ruled out the measure on Monday.
“It’s something we did say we may need to use in extreme circumstances, we don’t think that we’re going to need it because we are going to have enough other mitigating factors,” the airport boss said. A spokesman for the airport added that it did not “currently envision the need for a congestion charge, but there may be a case for one after 2030”.
Lord Adonis, the former transport secretary, said on Monday that the noise envelope, which the commission said might stipulate that there should be “no overall increase above current levels”, was one of the “weaknesses” of Sir Howard’s report.
“There’s a huge debate about what ‘overall increase’ means,” Lord Adonis said, adding that it could mean “total incidence of noise, high levels of noise, noise in particular communities”. He warned that it was the type of issue the Government could spend years investigating before giving the Heathrow runway the greenlight.
It came as Mr Holland-Kaye announce plans for a new “Heathrow Garden City” that would see about 9,000 homes built in Hounslow. It is understood that the development would be funded by Hounslow Council, although the masterplan has been developed in partnership with Heathrow.
The council said the plan was not dependent on a third runway and that it is “is extremely conceptual”.
Noise has driven distrust of airports, says CAA boss
A perception of “broken promises” over aircraft noise has driven the break-down of relations between Heathrow and local residents, according to Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority.
Speaking at the Runways UK conference, Mr Haines said that Britain was behind other countries in tackling the issue.
“It could be argued that the UK historically has been far less innovative than international counterparts in developing ways to reduce aviation noise,” he said.
“We haven’t pushed the boundaries of what is possible for a whole variety of reasons, and not all of those rest with the airport or indeed the airline industry. As a consequence relations with some communities have broken down.”
He added: “There is a perception the industry has broken promises in the past.”
Airports Commission recommends a 3rd Heathrow runway, but leaving door open for Gatwick runway if Government find Heathrow too difficult to force through
The Commission has recommended the Heathrow north-west runway proposal, and is adamant that option has the most benefits for the UK. It has left the option of Gatwick open, but says the arguments are very, very much stronger for Heathrow. Having delivered its report, the Commission is now standing down.
Airports Commission’s Final Report
Airports Commission’s “Business Case and Sustainability Assessment – Heathrow Airport Northwest Runway”
Sir Howard Davies’ letter to Patrick McLoughlin