Group of Heathrow Community Noise Forum members express concerns about the airport’s treatment of the Forum

The Heathrow Community Noise Forum was set up earlier this year, by Heathrow, in an attempt to improve “engagement” with people affected by the airport’s noise. It aims to build trust, provide information, improve understanding of Heathrow’s operations, and seek communities’ input. The first phase of its work has been to employ consultants to verify how accurate Webtrak is, and to see whether flight paths now are much different to before the “trials” in 2014.  However, there has been some dissatisfaction from many of those attending that the Forum has not been working adequately. Eight of the groups that attend presented a statement to the meeting on 5th November, declaring their concerns. One particular matter raised was that Heathrow appears to have taken advantage of the Forum, without the consent of participants, in pressing its case for a 3rd runway. The airport has cited the existence of the Forum as evidence that it can be relied upon to engage with neighbouring communities. There have been instances where HAL has opted to publish its interpretation of analysis in the public domain, without consulting the Forum beforehand, leading some to question whether the HCNF is being used to benefit HAL’s commercial ambitions. The statement requires 4 changes to how the HCNF is conducted,  without which “the community groups will need to consider the value of the CNF as a mechanism to achieve their objectives”.



Group of Heathrow Community Noise Forum members express concerns about the airport’s treatment of the Forum


At the Heathrow Community Noise Forum (HCNF) meeting of 5 November 2015, eight of the participating community groups issued a statement expressing concern at Heathrow’s treatment of the Forum: not only for failing to seriously engage with the community groups; but – particularly in light of this failure – for continually citing the Forum’s very existence as evidence in advancing its case for expansion, that it can be relied upon to engage with its neighbouring communities.

The statement requires that Heathrow make four changes to the way in which it conducts the HCNF, without which “the community groups will need to consider the value of the CNF as a mechanism to achieve their objectives”.


At the Heathrow Community Noise Forum (HCNF) meeting on 5 November the Statement  [copied below] was presented on behalf of 8 of the community groups on the forum expressing concern about the rate of progress achieved to date and that the creation of the HCNF had been used directly and indirectly by Heathrow in support of its case for a third runway.

The HCNF was set up by Heathrow and attended by the community groups on the understanding it would address concerns about the airport ‘as it is’ and explicitly not in the context of expansion.

Community representatives come to the HCNF because of very real distress and harm that has been caused to significant areas around the airport by both the changed use of airspace over recent years, as well as the ongoing load of up to 766 flights a day over 17.5 hours on Easterly ops to which communities are subjected (based on published maximum figures). NATS’ website confirms that over 300 changes have been promoted in 5 years. The cumulative impact is that many communities are facing severe and unprecedented levels of noise.

The groups fear this is leading to significant impacts on physical and mental health of people (particularly families with children) living under Heathrow’s flight paths. They have written recently to the chief executive of the airport, Mr Holland-Kaye, demanding that Heathrow commissions an airport specific health impact assessment. This is particularly important as it is known that noise pollution from Heathrow alone already affects around one third of all people in Europe (before expansion) impacted by noise from aviation.  (Data source: CAA Figure 2 55 Lden 2006 figures).

The attached statement to Heathrow’s Sustainability and Environment Director, Matt Gorman, calls for significant changes to the HCNF to help the forum work more effectively going forwards, achieving a better balance between the airport, the aviation industry and the communities living within the Heathrow hinterland (which covers large parts of London and the south east).

The community groups’ proposals include;

  • A time bound action plan to alleviate aviation noise impacts, restoring conditions as far as possible to conditions two to three years ago, since when many of the major changes have been introduced.
  • A review of the HCNF’s terms of reference going forwards into 2016 to ensure that the emphasis is switched to addressing excessive noise rather than analysing it. The communities appreciate the analysis and verification work that has been undertaken in this regard by the airport’s consultants but now the time has come to act on it.
  • Resulting from the rapid rise in the number of community groups (reflecting a huge rise in complaints received by the airport), a review of the composition of the HCNF to ensure all relevant areas are covered.
  • The statement is copied below.


On behalf of:

Aircraft Noise 3 Villages (Lightwater, Bagshot & Windlesham)

Englefield Green Action Group

Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents Association

Plane Daft – Ascot

Richings Park Residents Association

Richmond Heathrow Campaign

Steve Bax, Councillor – Molesey East

Teddington Action Group

For further information, please contact Paul McGuinness on 07958 589894 or



The Heathrow Community Noise Forum

Details about it on the Heathrow website for the Community Noise Forum 

including Terms of Reference , meeting dates. Meeting notes and presentations from each of the previous meetings can be found here


Heathrow Community Noise Forum; 5 November 2015.

Statement by community groups

I would like to make a statement on behalf of the community groups who were signatories to
the letter to Mr Holland-Kaye dated 19 October. These groups have been involved with the
HCNF since its inception but are now expressing growing dissatisfaction relating to the rate
of progress of the CNF in particular and the lack of practical steps by the Aviation Industry,
represented here today to remedy the situation.

You are all aware of the very significant effect that aircraft noise, often up to 18 hours a day
is having on the physical and mental health of the many communities represented at this
forum. We wrote to John Holland-Kaye and called for a Heathrow airport specific health
impact study. Although we received a response from Mr Gorman yesterday afternoon this
does not address the health impact issues we have raised nor our other concerns that the
CNF has been used by Heathrow in various contexts to support its case for expansion.

Whilst we signed up to this forum in the belief it would be both collaborative and transparent, we now feel this not be the case.


Specifically we object to:

 the fact that whilst a full representation of the aviation industry is present, including
the airport operator, air traffic control, the CAA (which is supposed to be responsible
for protection the public from excessive aviation noise) as well as the airport’s largest
Customer airline BA, to date none of these bodies is capable of stating what has
changed, nor accept that material changes have occurred despite data now revealing
such changes. In fact no one is accepting accountability for the distress caused by
changes that have been permitted over the past two years.

 the fact that the industry in addition to not accepting responsibility is not disclosing
information in an open or timely manner. The Compton Route change is a case in
point. Were it not for continued pressure from this forum and affected communities,
would NATS ever have revealed the change? If we complain about lack of
transparency, or we lack confidence in this process, consider this. How were HAL
and NATS able to continue to issue data supporting that no changes had taken place,
when in fact changes HAD taken place but data did not reflect that change?

 the fact that there have been instances recently where, without consultation or
notification, HAL has opted to publish its interpretation of analysis in the public
domain. This behaviour is unacceptable and rightly leads members to question
whether the HCNF is being used for the benefit of HAL’s commercial ambitions.

 the selective use of information by HAL. One such example being the public
statement by HAL that PA Consulting stated that larger planes are flying 300 feet
lower than before when in fact PA Consulting stated that the AVERAGE of ALL
planes is some 300 feet lower. HALs interpretation is that things are in fact
improving when that is not the case.

 We now know that planes are being flown from Heathrow deliberately using a
stepped form of climb (although this is something nearer a plateau). We believe this is
a practice contrary to the CAA ERCD statement of 1999 and also contrary to the
Industry Code of Practice of 2012 that Heathrow have signed up to. The deliberate
low flying is one of the major causes of suffering amongst communities and in our
view represents a wholly irresponsible use of airspace.

 the fact that we have to resort to FOI requests for information on how noisy the new
generation A380s are. Had HAL been truly pro-active in seeking to protect
residents, this information should have been volunteered at this forum.


These are just a few examples of concerns being expressed amongst the groups.

If HAL and those representatives of the aviation industry here today are truly committed to
engaging with communities then we require that:

 The Terms of Reference are revisited and amended to better meet the needs of the
Communities (details to be forwarded to you).

 HAL works with communities to formulate an action plan which would result in a
return of conditions to an acceptable level at the earliest possible date.

 HAL and Industry representatives report accurately to Government that
concentration, stepped take offs and other measures taken designed to improve
performance is not working.

 If HAL is genuinely concerned about the well-being of its neighbours, then it will call
for a delay on a decision for further expansion until it has received the local health
impact investigation called for in our letter to Mr Holland-Kaye. Without this it is not
possible to understand noise effects, either of the current operation or resulting from
any intensification or expansion.


We want to work collaboratively but we need transparency and urgency injected into
remedying the unacceptable noise conditions to which communities are now subjected. If
we cannot agree on a workable way forward, then community groups will need to consider
the value of the CNF as a mechanism to achieve their objectives.
On behalf of
Aircraft Noise 3 Villages (Lightwater, Bagshot & Windlesham)
Ealing Aircraft Noise Action Group
Englefield Green Action Group
Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents Association
Plane Daft – Ascot
Richings Park Residents Association
Richmond Heathrow Campaign
Steve Bax, Elmbridge (signed in personal capacity)
Teddington Action Group