Epsom & Ewell Borough Council sends robust response to Heathrow’s expansion plans

1 March, 2019 (Epsom & Ewell Borough Council website)

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council has submitted a robust response to Heathrow Airport Limited’s consultation on changes to existing airspace and future runway operations.

The consultation sets out how increased flights using the existing two runways and the proposed expansion to a third runway could operate in practice. This includes fundamental changes to the flightpaths and the geographic areas that are most likely to be impacted.

The borough of Epsom and Ewell is featured within four ‘design envelopes’ set out in Heathrow Airport Limited’s consultation on airspace and future operations. These proposals could result in the borough being overflown by aircraft far more frequently and at significantly lower altitudes.

Currently a proportion of aircraft arriving at or taking off from Heathrow airport fly over the borough at a height ranging from 7,000 to 22,000 feet [6,000 to 8,000 mainly. AW note] with the average being closer to about 12,000 feet.

However, the proposals for an expanded Heathrow airport specifies additional flights operating as low as 3,000 feet at a frequency of up to 47 flights per hour for arrivals, and 17 flights per hour for departures. 

Even without an additional runway, Heathrow Airport Limited’s proposed adoption of the Independent Parallel Approach (IPA) using the existing two runways would result in 25 flights per hour operating as low as 3,000 feet between 6am to 7am and 6 flights per hour at other times. In addition to the above, the borough borders an area directly to the North where it is proposed that aircraft would be flying at even lower altitudes i.e. down to just 2,000 feet. 

Councillor Eber Kington, Chairman of the Council’s Strategy & Resources Committee, said: “For people living, working and studying in Epsom and Ewell these proposals could translate into an estimated four to five-fold increase in noise levels in addition to the significant additional impact from the frequency of flights overhead and the impact on air quality caused by increased air pollution levels including increased carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other compounds harmful to human health and the environment.

“Given the geographic topology of the borough, and the fact that Epsom and Ewell is already the most densely populated borough in Surrey, it faces greater risks from poor air quality and already has a declared Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Therefore, significantly more residents and businesses would be impacted by the increase in air traffic and aircraft flying at significant lower altitudes in the airspace above and around the borough.”

Councillor Peter O’Donovan, Chairman of the Council’s Environment Committee said, “There were 26 consultation documents published on the Heathrow consultation website during the course of January 2019, much of which were highly technical including some that were over 500 pages long. Yet the consultation process itself which started on 8 January 2019 and is set to close on 4 March 2019 only allowed some 8 weeks for those impacted to read and analyse these documents before having to respond. The scheduling of just one local event for the whole borough of Epsom and Ewell with a population of some 80,000 was far from adequate.”

“Most of the questions posed in the consultation were highly constrained and leading, implying that significant increases in flights and flights operating at lower altitudes, with greater noise and pollution levels, were acceptable and enviable outcomes. This type of approach to consultation only serves to undermine trust and confidence in the process. It is vital that local communities including local businesses have the opportunity to be fully and properly engaged in the consultation on potential airport Expansion and that their voices are heard.”

Councillor Eber Kington, Chairman of the Council’s Strategy & Resources Committee, added, “We will continue to argue in the strongest possible terms against any proposals for airport expansion that impacts so negatively on our borough.”

For details of the Council’s response to Heathrow Airport Limited’s consultation, please see: www.epsom-ewell.gov.uk

For info and to respond to the Heathrow Airspace and Future Operations consultation, which closes on 4 March, please see: https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/