Wandsworth Council raises concerns about absence of flight path details for Heathrow runway
The DfT published its draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on a Heathrow 3rd runway on 2nd February. This was announced alongside a consultation on “modernising” airspace, to use it more intensively, so more flights can be accommodated. There is no detail in the NPS of flight paths for an expanded Heathrow, and it was confirmed at the Heathrow Community Noise Forum that there would be no details of flight paths until the end of the airport’s Development Consent Order process – several years away. For tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people living within perhaps 30 miles of Heathrow, the flight path details are vital – otherwise they have no idea how they will be affected by noise. Wandsworth councillors have expressed concern about the secrecy. Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “What millions of Londoners want to know above anything else is whether the new flight paths will go over their homes, schools or communities. There is no justification for keeping this vital information a secret. The Government seems to be consulting on the benefits of expanding this airport but not the drawbacks. This renders the whole exercise meaningless. This is more like marketing than consultation and the Transport Secretary is damaging already fragile trust in politics.”
Wandsworth Council raises concerns about ‘secrecy’ surrounding Heathrow’s third runway flight paths
By Grainne Cuffe (This is Local London)
Wandsworth councillors have expressed concern about the secrecy surrounding the Government’s consultations on the expansion of Heathrow airport.
The Government launched a four month consultation yesterday (February 2), including a series of public meetings, on adding a third runway and changes to airspace policy.
This included a 46-page draft national policy statement which failed to clarify the new flight paths that would result from a third runaway.
The Department for Transport told the media yesterday: “The planning policy proposals [for a third runway] show this Government is not only making the big decisions but getting on with delivering them.”
Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “What millions of Londoners want to know above anything else is whether the new flight paths will go over their homes, schools or communities. There is no justification for keeping this vital information a secret.
“The Government seems to be consulting on the benefits of expanding this airport but not the drawbacks. This renders the whole exercise meaningless.
“This is more like marketing than consultation and the transport secretary is damaging already fragile trust in politics.”
“It’s vital that residents are not put off by Government’s approach and make their voices heard. This council and its partners will campaign for the flightpath options to be included in this consultation and will provide a more balanced presentation of the scheme’s impacts.”
In a statement, transport secretary Chris Grayling said the UK has failed to build the capacity needed to match “people’s growing desire for travel”.
He said: “Doing nothing is no longer a choice we can afford to make.
“Without expansion, constraints in the aviation sector would impose increasing costs on the rest of the economy over time, lowering economic output by making aviation more expensive and less convenient to use, with knock-on effects in lost trade, tourism and foreign direct investment.”
The Government’s draft national policy statement has been met with opposition.
Richmond Council leader Lord True has branded it a “farce”, while Zac Goldsmith, the spokesman and organiser of the anti-expansion campaign by Richmond, Wandsworth, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead, condemned it for not giving details on new flight paths.
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) commented on this lack of flight paths:
“On noise, the Government’s airspace consultation, published in parallel, suggests that Heathrow’s noise impact will be assessed using ‘indicative’ flight paths which may be subject to change further down the line. So those who may eventually be overflown, and who may otherwise have voiced an opinion at this important stage in the process, may not see the need to engage.
“How can Parliament be expected to agree support for Heathrow expansion until it’s clear whether this is possible within climate change and air pollution limits, and until the location of flight paths has been finalised?”
How will people who will 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.
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.