How will people who would ultimately be – newly – intensely overflown by new Heathrow flight paths know they need to make their voice heard?

There is a considerable problem with the DfT consultations on the National Policy Statement on Heathrow, and their Airspace modernisation consultation. If there is a 3rd Heathrow runway, tens or hundreds of thousands of people – who are not currently overflown – would be. They would also be likely to be overflown intensively – as the intention of the airspace management industry is to use narrow routes, and have planes directed down these accurately. That means the same people would get plane after plane overhead, often most of the day, perhaps on most days or on many days per year.  However, many of these people have no idea yet that this threat may await them. They will neither be aware there is a consultation to which they should respond, nor of the severity of the noise burden to which they may be subjected. No flight path details are yet known, and probably will not be know for another couple of years.  There is a considerable risk (as at Frankfurt with their 4th runway) that people could find themselves, once a runway opens, with a level of noise they had been warned of, and for which they were not prepared. The DfT is sending out 1.5 million leaflets for its NPS consultation. But how will the relevant households know that this might be a matter of real significance for them in the future?  Unless people are fully informed, with proper information, the consultation is not adequate.


How will people who would ultimately be intensely overflown by new flight paths, but are not now, know they need to make their voice heard?

At the Heathrow Community Noise Forum meeting on 2nd February, the point was made several times to the DfT – and to Heathrow – that there is a serious problem.

There are inevitably going to be new flight paths.  The DfT and the CAA say these will be narrow flight paths, using PBN technology (like SatNav for planes, so they can fly a route very accurately – and every plane can fly the exact same line).

This means, in an area as densely populated as west London and areas within 30 miles or so of the airport, there will be tens (or probably hundreds) of thousands of people who will be overflown for the first time.

Some of them may be overflown intensively, with many planes per hour – and for most of the day, on many days.

Most of these people are completely unaware of the noise burden to which they will be subjected. They will also be unaware that, once it has started, the flight path with not be changed and however much they complain, nothing will be done to reduce the noise.

These people may at present now know, or care much, that there is a consultation on the Airports National Policy Statement. They will not have any idea that they should be taking a keen interest in it – and they should be responding.

As there are no details of flight paths, people cannot know how much they will be affected.

Unless considerable care is taken to ensure everyone under a potential flight path is made aware of the prospect, and given all the information they need to understand the implications for them personally, these people will not respond to the consultations.

Though the DfT is sending out 1.5 million leaflets about the proposed 3rd runway, they will not make it clear to those who would eventually experience considerable noise exposure that they would be affected.

They are also holding a number of local information events ** around the Heathrow area, but unless people know they need to take an interest and attend these, they will not reach everyone who needs the information.

It is a matter of common sense to see straight line flight paths directly east-west, aligned with runways, for the last approximately 8 – 10 miles from the runway.  People can work that out for themselves.

But they cannot work out where the airspace management industry will decide to curve flight paths, on take offs, or on arrivals. These things cannot be accurately predicted.

It is these routes, other than straight line approaches onto the runway, that people need to know about.

Any consultation on a future runway that does not include this information, and ensure all those who need to be informed are informed, it has failed entirely in its duties.

The government hopes to get its NPS through, giving the planning requirements for the Heathrow runway to go to the Development Consent Order stage. But if people have not been able to make informed comments on the runway proposals, the NPS is deeply flawed.




**  There will  be a number of consultation information events in the London area. Details at


See also

Government publishes draft Airports National Policy Statement consultation, to pave the way for Heathrow runway

The government has announced the start of the DfT’s consultation on the draft “Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England”. It is the necessary first stage in the process of getting consent for a Heathrow 3rd runway. The consultation will last for 16 weeks, and end on 25th May. The text associated with the draft NPS says little new, that we had not heard before. It is rich in statements like: “..proposals show this Government is not only making the big decisions but getting on with delivering them” and “…will ensure Britain seizes the opportunity to forge a new role in the world after Brexit ….” No real practical, enforceable constraints appear to be placed upon Heathrow, other than it will have to put in place “measures to mitigate the impacts of noise including legally binding noise targets, periods of predictable respite and a ban of six and a half hours on scheduled [note, scheduled only] night flights” … and “implementing measures to deliver on its commitments of no increase in airport related road traffic…” And that: “Planning consent will only be granted if the new runway can be delivered within existing air quality limits and climate change obligations.” The only noise body offered is the “Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise” – ie. a Commission, with no powers, not an Authority with powers.

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