DfT publishes night flights consultation – no concessions to airport groups for another 4 years…?
Historically, the DfT has set the night flight regime – for the “designated” airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted – for periods of 5 years. The last regime was in 2017, for the period from October 2017 to October 2022. The DfT says: “The aim of the regime was to maintain the status quo and ensure that communities do not experience any overall increase in the noise created by night flights.” It has allowed a high level of night flights, with no reductions on earlier numbers, despite significant community opposition. Seventeen airport groups wrote to the Aviation Minister on 10th November, asking that night flights should be limited in future, with a proper night period in which no flights are permitted (other than genuine emergencies). The aim was to make their point before the DfT consultation (by which time the DfT has decided what it intends to do …). The government has now published its new night flights consultation, for the period 2022 to 2024. The DfT intends there to be no change to the current regime (no concessions to suffering from being overflown at night) other than phasing out the noisiest planes, which airlines are getting rid of anyway, due to Covid. DfT says: “… we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally.”
Government rejects plea to ban night flights amid noise complaints
By Press Association 2020
Calls for a ban on night flights at airports have been rejected by the Government.Existing limits on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will be preserved until at least October 2024 under new Department for Transport (DfT) proposals.
Seventeen organisations covering airports such as Bristol, East Midlands, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow and Southampton wrote to aviation minister Robert Courts last month demanding that take-offs and landings are banned for eight hours every night.
The DfT, which is consulting on the plans, said night flights are “an important contributor” to the economic benefits provided by the aviation sector.
But it also acknowledged that noise from night flights “is often regarded by communities as the most disturbing form of airport operations”.
Responding to the consultation launch, John Stewart, who chairs anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: “The Government should take this opportunity not to tinker around with night flight restrictions but to ask the more basic question of how many of the night flights are really needed.
“No night flights is what most communities want. The Government should have that as its target.”
The DfT consultation document stated: “Maintaining the existing restrictions for an interim period will provide time for complete consideration of the longer-term options for managing aviation noise at night at the designated airports.
“It will also provide time for the impacts of the pandemic on the aviation industry to be better understood and for evidence to emerge that can support longer-term policy changes.”
Heathrow is currently allowed an average of 16 flights every night between 11.30pm and 6am.
The limit at Gatwick and Stansted is 40 and 38 respectively.
The only planned change in night flights from October 2022 is to prohibit the use of aircraft with noise levels similar to the Boeing 747-400 between 11.30pm and 6am.
These type of planes have been grounded by several airlines due to the lack of demand for air travel.
Launched in 1969, the hump-shaped 747s are considerably larger and louder than modern airliners.
The DfT said: “We believe the impacts to the industry of this ban will be minimal, but it will have a benefit to communities that are overflown by ensuring these noisiest aircraft movements are prevented from operating in the night quota period in future.”
The department is also asking for views on night flights both beyond 2024 and at airports across the country.
Groups write to Aviation Minister, asking for new limits on night flights – including need for an 8-hour night period
A long list of organisations and groups have signed a letter to the Transport Minister, Robert Courts, asking for action to limit night flights. It is understood that the government intends to publish a consultation and call for evidence on night flights later this year. The groups hope the DfT will take their views into consideration, and not (as in 2017) decide policy on night flights BEFORE consulting. They say that all night flights, other than for emergency and humanitarian purposes, should be banned at all UK airports. The period defined as night should be an eight hour period. If any night flights are to be permitted, their number and impacts should be regulated far more robustly than they are now, at all airports. In the past, the government has argued that the economic benefits of allowing planes to fly at night outweigh the health and quality of life costs of those negatively affected. This can no longer withstand scrutiny, as many flights are just to perpetuate a low-cost carrier business model that generates unsustainable levels of leisure flights. The demand for business flights is increasingly replaced by internet communications, and most air freight does not need to arrive the next day.
Night flight restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports between 2022 and 2024 plus future night flight policy
Two stage consultation asking:
1. – to maintain the existing night flight restrictions for the designated airports between 2022 to 2024 plus banning QC4 rated aircraft movements between 23:30 to 06:00
The designated airports are Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. The QC or quota count system, is category system based on the aircraft noise level and conducted in accordance with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation certification process. The QC4 aircraft category includes departure of Boeing 747-400’s and similar craft.
Consultation on our proposal for the regime at designated airports from October 2022 to October 2024
We currently set night-time operating restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted as these airports are designated for the purposes of noise regulation under the Civil Aviation Act 1982. We last consulted on these controls in February 2017. The decision, which was published in July 2017, put in place the current regime covering the period from October 2017 to October 2022.
In this section we seek views on our proposal to maintain the existing regime at designated airports for 2 years, from October 2022 to October 2024, and placing an operational ban on QC4 rated aircraft movements. This would mean that the limits in place at Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted airports would remain unchanged between October 2022 and October 2024. Alongside this, we propose taking advantage of the withdrawal of QC4 rated aircraft (for example a Boeing 747-400 on departure) from most scheduled services due to COVID-19, by proposing to ban such aircraft movements between 23:30 and 06:00. We believe the impacts to the industry of this ban will be minimal, but it will have a benefit to communities that are overflown by ensuring these noisiest aircraft movements are prevented from operating in the night quota period in future.
Maintaining the existing restrictions for an interim period will provide time for complete consideration of the longer-term options for managing aviation noise at night at the designated airports. It will also provide time for the impacts of the pandemic on the aviation industry to be better understood and for evidence to emerge that can support longer-term policy changes. Alongside this, it will ensure the government complies with legal consultation and notification requirements.
This consultation process
This is a two-stage consultation process which seeks views on the regime at the designated airports beyond 2022, and night flights in the national context. This consultation is for a period of 3 months.
Stage 1 of this consultation has 2 purposes. Firstly, we are formally consulting on our proposal to maintain the existing night flight restrictions for the designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) from 2022 to 2024, and our proposal to ban QC4 rated aircraft movements during the night quota period (23:30 to 06:00). Responses to this section of the consultation will allow us to make a final policy decision on the regime for the designated airport beyond 2022 in summer 2021.
Secondly, we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally. This includes whether we should amend our national noise policy to include specific policy for night noise, revising our night flight dispensation guidance, whether we should set criteria for airport designation, and what any future night flight regime at the designated airports should look like.
We would aim to publish stage 2 of this consultation in 2022 which will set out firm proposals for the designated airports beyond 2024.
This process relates to the current designated airports in their current operational form and it does not consider any scenarios related to airport expansion proposals.
This consultation process will be of interest to communities that live near airports or underneath flightpaths, local authorities, airlines, airport operators, and businesses or consumers that depend on the aviation sector.
Options for the regime beyond 2024. Length of the regime
Historically, night flight regimes have been for periods of 5 years or shorter. We are aware that some stakeholders have indicated that this does not allow for long-term planning. We therefore seek views and evidence on how long the night-flight regime beyond 2024 should be, including whether there would be benefits of a much longer regime (10+ years). We have not proposed a regime of less than 3 years as consultation and notification requirements would mean that we would need to consult on the subsequent regime soon after the new regime was coming into effect.
We are mindful of the potential interactions between the night flight regime set by government beyond 2024, and any future decisions brought about by relevant external planning processes. For example, any decisions taken during the process of a development application under the Planning Act 2008, or under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The impacts of this could be that that the restrictions taken forward under the next night flight regime might be replaced by a bespoke regime brought in through the planning process, or that other separate restrictions could run alongside those introduced through this process.