Chris Grayling challenged by 4 Councils to spell out Heathrow 3rd runway noise impacts

Leaders of some of the Councils worse affected by Heathrow have now called on the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, to say how many years of extra noise he expects local communities to suffer, if a 3rd Heathrow runway is built. The Government has so far refused to release updated noise assessments for the 4 years following the new runway’s expected opening in 2026, to 2030. These were prepared for the revised draft National Planning Statement (NPS) but not included as part of the October 2017 consultation.  Chris Grayling told the Transport Select Committee in February that there would be a “short period of time” when the airport would have an expanded noise footprint. If less noisy planes come into service, to help Heathrow deal with its massive noise problem, that will not be until 2030.  The Government has previously stated that a 3 runway Heathrow would (implausibly) be “quieter than today.” People who will be overflown have a right to know what these increased noise levels would be, how long they would last and how many people’s lives would be affected. The councils have highlighted the lack of detail on noise in a further submission to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into Heathrow expansion. The Committee’s report to Parliament is expected shortly.


Minister challenged to spell out Heathrow noise impacts

Monday 12th March 2018

by Wandsworth Borough Council

Council leaders have called on the Transport Secretary to say how many years of extra noise he expects local communities to suffer if a third Heathrow runway is built.

The Government has so far refused to release updated noise assessments for the four years following the new runway’s expected opening in 2026. These were prepared for the revised draft National Planning Statement (NPS) but not included as part of the October 2017 consultation.

Chris Grayling told the Transport Select Committee in February that there would be a ‘short period of time’ when the airport would have an expanded noise footprint.

The Government has previously stated that Heathrow with a third runway would be ‘quieter than today.’

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “Local people have a right to know what these increased noise levels would be, how long they would last and how many people’s lives would be affected.

“If he is placing his hopes on a new generation of quieter aircraft he should tell us when he expects these to come into service. We know that this can’t be before 2030 at the earliest so that’s at least four years of extra noise misery for the people affected.”

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: “We are already concerned that local people were expected to have their say on a third runway without information on new flight paths. Now they won’t know, if they are affected, how long the noise misery will last. This failure to provide this basic information makes the Government’s consultation meaningless.

“The case for the third runway is not backed by the facts and the information provided for residents in the consultation has been wholly inadequate. We are now increasingly confident that Parliament will recognise these shortcomings and vote against expansion at Heathrow.”

The councils have highlighted the lack of detail on noise in a further submission to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into Heathrow expansion.

Cllr Simon Dudley, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said:

“The Government has a duty to take action that reduces the impact of any harm caused by expansion. They know that a third runway would bring more noise and they have the information that proves it. Yet they refuse to release the information and decline to accept their responsibility for dealing with it.”

The councils have also questioned the reliability of Government forecasts for the number of domestic flights that could be guaranteed as part of a ‘deal’ for residents in other parts of the UK.

The Secretary of State has suggested that 15 per cent of the additional capacity could be reserved for routes serving airports within the UK.

Cllr Paul Hodgins, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “The minister’s optimism on the number of domestic connections that would be possible with a third runway is not backed by any hard evidence.

“The draft NPS contains no detail on how a commitment to ‘ring-fence’ new slots for internal flights might work. So it is a ‘commitment’ which can’t be taken seriously.

“There is nothing to show what such a commitment might cost the taxpayer, nothing to show the impact on other UK airports particularly if another 40,000 flights take off from Heathrow, nothing to show the impact of noise and nothing to show how it might be enforced.

“Wherever people live they have a duty to be given the facts about expansion. Without these it will be impossible for any government to claim that people have been properly consulted before a decision is made and Parliament should vote it down, giving a clear signal that Gatwick is the only airport that could be expanded.”



The local authorities’ further response to the current Transport Select Committee is published here:

Parts of that response are copied below:


4.              Noise


4.1              Noise is a major differentiator between the choice of Heathrow and Gatwick as locations for expansion. In terms of the magnitude of the numbers of people affected Heathrow impacts on 30 times more people than Gatwick.

4.2              The government’s stated policy in relation to Heathrow expansion is:

“Heathrow with a third runway will be quieter than today”

4.3              It is clear now that expansion with the Heathrow NW runway will not be quieter than today.

4.4              This was admitted by SoS in his witness session to the Committee. His unquantified statement that “there will be a short period of time around the end of the next decade when there is an expanded noise footprint”

4.5              The duration of the “short period of time” is not known, the numbers of people impacted and the actual noise levels they will be subjected to have not been provided in the revised draft Airports NPS. This is despite the changes in the aviation demand forecasts forecasting 2026 as the opening year for the Heathrow NW runway.

4.6              No noise assessments have been provided to cover the period 2026 – 2030.

4.7              From the evidence provided it is however clear that noise will be worse from the opening years until well after 2030 – contrary to both the government’s policy on Heathrow expansion and its general policy on aviation noise which is to minimise and where possible reduce the numbers of people affected by aviation noise.

4.8              The Committee has been asked to accept on face value that technology will take care of the noise issue. However the evidence does not support these claims. For example the CAA in consideration of the work of Airports Commission advised that:

”It is clear that the additional benefits of 3.2 degree approaches are relatively small” (CAA publication CAP 1165).

4.9              The lack of candour about the fact that thousands more people will be newly affected and hundreds of thousands will be worse affected by noise makes the fact that the government and Heathrow are unable or unwilling to say who will be affected suspect.  Our experience of the noise suffered from Heathrow leads us to believe that were the Government and Heathrow to reveal the true extent of the noise impact of a third runway then the public reaction on that ground alone would make Heathrow expansion impossible.


5              Night Flight Ban

5.1              The NPS before the committee does not secure a night flight ban and there is no meaningful proposal to ban night flights.

5.2              Heathrow and the government are clearly ignoring the recommendations of the Airports Commission when it doesn’t suit them.   The unenforceable ban proposed to “scheduled flights” would, even if enforced, make little difference to the daily misery endured by thousands who are overflown at night.




9              Respite

9.1              The revised NPS proposes that:

The applicant should put forward plans for a runway alternation scheme that provides communities affected with predictable periods of respite (though the Government acknowledges that the duration of periods of respite that currently apply will be reduced). Predictability should be afforded to the extent that this is within the applicant’s control. The details of any such scheme, including timings, duration and scheduling, should be defined in consultation with local communities and relevant stakeholders, and take account of any independent guidance such as from the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (para 5.60)  

9.2              The Airports Commission clearly understood in 2015 that the Heathrow NW Runway expansion option would mean that communities under the current flight paths would see a loss of half a day of respite down to 4 hours at most. No assessment of either the potential health impacts that may arise from such a change, or how this may impact on people’s lives and their health and wellbeing has been published.

9.3              The Committee heard from Heathrow itself in evidence that:

“One of the biggest issues for local communities is respite from noise. To guarantee respite from noise for local communities, you have to have a new runway that can take any size of plane and that allows you to have full rotation between the three runways. We absolutely need to make sure that we are delivering on our commitment to respite from noise for local communities. “(John Holland Kaye).

Emma Gilthorpe: “With three runways, we can give guaranteed predictable respite. We cannot do that at the moment with two runways.”

9.4              The facts are that predictable respite by way of half-day runway alternation has been reliably provided at Heathrow for over 20 years. In recent years, whilst it is true that both runways are utilised for westerly landings between 6am and 7am, generally speaking for the rest of the day runway alternation (respite) is reliably provided according to a published programme.

9.5              We note the Committee’s concern about future respite with a 3 runway Heathrow, in particular the concern expressed by members on 7thFebruary 2018. For example:

Q569 Iain Stewart: An issue of huge concern to the communities around Heathrow is the respite periods. The NPS states that the northwest runway will offer more predictable periods of respite, although the period will fall from half a day to a third of a day. What does that mean in practice? It is very vague, and the people we have heard from want more clarity as to what the impact will be on their communities.

The Sos replied:

Chris Grayling: “The key point here is that, at the moment, Heathrow operates in a way that means that half the flightpaths—two out of the four—do not have a plane flying over them at any one time. With three runways, one will operate in mixed mode normally, and that means that, of the six, two out of the six at any one time will not have planes flying overhead. That is clearly a change. It means less respite for some areas than they have at the moment. We will want to try to mitigate that through smart use of the approach technology.'”

9.6              The reality of the situation is that despite the promises, what is actually proposed will be worse than now both for those currently overflown and those yet to be impacted by Heathrow expansion.


February 2018

See   for whole response.




See earlier:


4 main councils opposing Heathrow 3rd runway say it is unbuildable, due to noise and air pollution

Councils opposed to expansion at Heathrow have told the Transport Select Committee (TSC) inquiry into the Airports NPS that the most recent evidence published by the Government continues to demonstrate that a 3rd Heathrow runway could not be built without causing unacceptable air and noise pollution. They say that if ministers continue to support a 3rd runway, it will blight the area around the airport while failing to solve what they see as a “need” for extra airport capacity in the South East.  The councils point out that the DfT’s 2nd consultation on the NPS fails to show how, with a new runway, the airport could meet air quality limits in an area where pollution levels are deteriorating. Councillor Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “… it is clear that a third Heathrow runway is not deliverable within the new timescale of an opening in 2026. The shorter the timescale the more likely that illegal air pollution will result.”  The councils have also warned the TSC that the Government’s refusal to allow more time for consultation on the new evidence (just 8 weeks, ending on 19th December) “supports the view that the Secretary of State has effectively made up his mind to support Heathrow and that this is affecting the fairness of the consultation.”   



Leader of Richmond Council: Government aviation strategy ignores Heathrow health impacts

The Leader of Richmond Council, commenting on the DfT’s consultation on the draft aviation strategy (closed 13th October), says it tries to shut down any discussion on expansion at Heathrow and puts the demand for additional flights ahead of the health impact on communities affected by increased noise and worsening air quality. Leader Paul Hodgins, speaking on behalf of Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead councils, said: “It is difficult to see what purpose the draft aviation strategy serves when, in it, the government is ignoring the problem of Heathrow. First we had a pro-Heathrow airport draft national policy statement with no details on flightpaths, out of date passenger demand figures, an economic case which doesn’t stand up and unattainable pollution limits. Now we have a national strategy that leaves out Heathrow.  Any serious attempt at a UK-wide policy must come before any policy on individual airports, including Heathrow.”  He also said: “The Government should withdraw this partial and disingenuous strategy document, abandon its unjustified policy support for Heathrow and begin again with an approach that people can trust.”

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