Residents could soon see a significant reduction in the number of flights over Colnbrook and Poyle if the Government, as expected, finds in favour of Heathrow in its long-running attempt to take advantage of the scrapping of the Cranford Agreement in 2009.
It may have taken a staggering SEVEN YEARS to get to this point, but a decision on the ‘practical ending’ of the Cranford Agreement that heavily distorts the balance of departures between east and west of the airport, to the distinct disadvantage of Colnbrook residents, could be imminent.
While a decision was originally expected as early as August 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government has been seeking comments from affected groups requesting comments on the Inspector’s key recommendation that, supposing the Secretary of State was minded to allow the appeal, that an additional condition would be necessary to ensure that an insulation scheme is made available to those households who would otherwise only be entitled to relocation assistance.
The Parish Council was contacted to this end and councillors discussed the matter at a meeting a fortnight ago. Cllr Hood proposed that the parish write to reinforce the points made in a previous letter to the Inspector in November 2014 – namely that the Parish is happy for the appeal to be allowed subject to mitigation measures for properties that would be affected. This was seconded by Cllr Smith and agreed unanimously by the nine councillors present. Clerk Katy Jones was instructed to respond to the Robert Putnam from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The latest development follows a separate round of consultation between the main stakeholders in February on compensation proposals advanced by the Department. It suggests that a final decision could now be just weeks away.
The Cranford Agreement. A verbal agreement made 60 years ago that restricted planes from taking off towards the east, from the northern runway, over Cranford village. On easterly operations, planes are therefore forced to take off on the southern runway, and all planes land on the northern runway. The agreement was scrapped in 2009 but the lack of infrastructure to enable take offs from the northern runway has meant no real change in practice. Hillingdon Council, as expected, refused planning permission for new taxiways in 2014 and a long-running appeal by Heathrow (APP/R5510/A/14/2225774) was launched in September that year. The appeal was heard by way of a three week Public Inquiry in June 2015.
In January there were reports that the delay in a decision was due to debate over compensation, including relocation assistance. The Government was understood to favour offering alternatives to those households affected to allow those who want to remain the option of having noise insulation installed rather than being forced to leave.
The ending of the Cranford agreement would mean less noise for some areas, but more for others, as Hillingdon itself noted in its consideration of the impact of ending Cranford:
“For some communities (such as Windsor, Colnbrook and Hatton) during prolonged periods of easterly operations this results in several days of overflight without any respite and for others (such as Old Windsor, Stanwell Moor and Cranford) unexpected periods of relief.”
While neither Slough Borough Council nor Colnbrook Parish Council chose to participate directly in the inquiry the impact of ending the Cranford Agreement would be substantial for Colnbrook.
During easterly operations, areas under the final approaches to the northern runway such as Windsor, Datchet, Colnbrook and Poyle, would see overflights reduce in total by 302, from 630 to 328 movements per day.
Specifically the appeal relates to the creation of a new hold area at the western end of the northern runway, the construction of new access and exit taxiways and the construction of a five metre high acoustic noise barrier to the south of Longford Village.
It Heathrow wins the appeal, and the work is done, there could be roughly 35,000 extra flights a year over Cranford (but no increase in the overall 480,000 flights per year at Heathrow).
In spite of its inherent unfairness HACAN has campaigned against scrapping Cranford on the basis that it makes dual operations possible.
Public inquiry into the ending of the “Cranford Agreement” to start on 2nd June and last 3 weeks
The Cranford Agreement was made in the 1950s, to ensure planes cannot take off from Heathrow’s northern runway, to the east, except in exceptional circumstances. That protected Cranford when there are easterly winds. However, it has meant that on easterly operations all take offs are from the southern runway, and all landings on the northern – hitting Windsor hard. Ending the Cranford Agreement would give Windsor residents more respite from the noise. Though the Agreement was formally ended in 2010, Heathrow needed to make changes in access and exit taxiways off the northern runway and consent is needed from Hillingdon Council. They have refused permission (on noise and air quality grounds), but the issue is now going to a public inquiry that starts on 2nd June. It is likely to last for 3 weeks. The Heathrow plans needing planning consent are also the creation of a new ‘hold area’ at the western end of the northern runway, and the construction of a 5 metre high acoustic noise barrier to the south of Longford Village.
Compensation debate delays government decision on taxiway works to allow end to Cranford agreement
The Government is still considering Heathrow’s appeal over taxiway works needed to enable more departures over Cranford. The taxiway works are needed to enable scheduled easterly take-offs from the northern runway, which were previously banned under the Cranford Agreement. This verbal agreement was made 60 years ago, that planes would not take off towards the east, from the northern runway. On easterly operations, planes all therefore take off on the southern runway, and all planes land on the northern runway. The Cranford Agreement was ended by the government in 2009. But though Heathrow can have a small number of take offs from the northern runway, it needs to do taxiway work, in order to use it fully. Hillingdon Council has refused permission for this work, partly due to air pollution fears, and hence the Heathrow appeal. It Heathrow wins the appeal, and the work is done, there could be roughly 35,000 extra flights a year over Cranford (but no increase in the overall 480,000 flights per year at Heathrow). The ending of the Cranford agreement would mean less noise for some areas, but more for others. The delay is due to debate over compensation, help with relocation, or insulation for affected householders.