Government and CAA hope that “community engagement” will remove aircraft noise problems with 3rd runway

The proposed 3rd runway at Heathrow is intended to increase the number of annual flights to 740,000 per year – an increase of 260,000 from the current cap of 480,000. This will mean huge numbers of people newly affected by aircraft noise, and changes to the noise for those currently affected.  New flight paths would be required, and these would need to be consulted on. The government and the CAA have misguided faith in the magic solution of “community engagement” to solve the noise problems. In the recent documents from the DfT and the CAA, there are numerous comments about how Heathrow will be required to “engage.”  The fallacy, and the incorrect impression it is intended to create (especially to the naive) is that somehow having information about the noise, and being told about it, makes it less of a problem, and less annoying (stressful, depressing, or damaging to house prices). Some examples of the disingenuous and guileful wording are: (CAA) “… airport expansion can only be permitted if there is a credible package of measures to deal with local communities.” …  On legitimate concerns of local communities that “… will require changes to operating practices and full community participation in the airspace changes that will be required.” And (DfT) “Proposals will be brought forward …. including the way in which affected communities can best be engaged.”



From CAA press release:

The regulator has also told the airport to set out clear plans for engaging with local communities and addressing their legitimate concerns around issues such as compensation, operational procedures and participation in the airspace change process.

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, said:

“….  We also expect the airport to ensure the legitimate concerns of communities near the airport are properly and fully considered and that a credible package of measures to manage those concerns is in place.”

From CAA CAP 201466:

– Airport must manage the legitimate concerns of local communities

The regulator has also been clear that any new capacity must consider the legitimate needs and concerns of affected local communities

As well as setting the maximum amount the airport can charge airlines and also establishing minimum service standards for the airport, the CAA also has other roles to play.  These include implementing Government policy on airspace changes to ensure the best balance is reached between safety, efficiency and community impact;

Subsequent consultations will set out our views on other elements of the economic regulation framework, including:

compensation to local communities (e.g. in relation to noise and blight)



The DfT statement on its website  says:

Proposals will be brought forward to support improvements to airspace and how to manage noise, including the way in which affected communities can best be engaged and whether there is a role for a new independent aviation noise body as the Airports Commission recommended.

The Airports Commission concluded that even with the extra flights added by the airport’s expansion fewer people would be affected by noise from Heathrow by 2030 than are today.


The failings of Heathrow’s current “community engagement”

With the objective of “ticking the box” of community engagement, Heathrow set up a “Heathrow Community Noise Forum” (HCNF) a couple of years ago.  Many community groups have joined it, and given up a lot of their time attending its meetings, in the hope of getting some small improvements in the noise situation that Heathrow inflicts on them.

There is huge dissatisfaction among many of the groups, and the impression that Heathrow is just going through the motions.  Heathrow has no intention of reducing the noise they suffer, and is using the HCNF to impress the government, the CAA etc that they are “engaging” effectively, and can make out that they have done what is required.

There is a lot of the Teddington Action Group’s  (TAG)website on this, (October 2016) at

One paragraph from the letter from TAG to Heathrow’s Matt Gorman states:

“Whilst we welcome your suggested improvements to HCNF processes, we are very concerned that you see the ultimate goal of the Forum as delivering airspace modernisation. This is not the reason why communities have given up their time to attend – which is probably exactly why so many groups are so dissatisfied with the process to date and are seriously questioning the value of their investment in time. If we are really expected to believe that the HCNF has any influence whatsoever, then we need to see improvements in the current noise environment – before any further steps towards airspace modernisation are implemented. To this end we would expect to see Heathrow come forward now with specific and tangible plans to achieve noise reductions.”


It would appear that Heathrow’s current offerings in terms of “community engagement” leave a very great deal to be desired.

If this is what is meant by the DfT and the CAA, in terms of how Heathrow will make the extra noise from an enlarged airport acceptable to communities, they should re-think.  The current system of a Forum, like the HCNF (which, frankly, Heathrow uses for its own purposes) is not adequate.

It is merely a fig leaf that does virtually nothing to solve the problem it was set out to solve.  It is merely an attempt to whitewash over very significant noise problems, to keep on with “business as usual” with less vociferous opposition.