Heathrow Airport news June to December 2014

Aer Lingus rejects take over bid from Willie Walsh and IAG – Aer Lingus has 23 pairs of Heathrow slots


Ireland’s Aer Lingus has rejected a bit by IAG.  Aer LIngus said the IAG approach “fundamentally undervalued” Aer Lingus.  BA’s owner, IAG, said there was no certainty it would make another offer. The bid comes amid frantic efforts by legacy European carriers, including Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, to combat the growing threat from low-cost operators such as Ryanair and easyJet on short-haul routes and from rich Gulf airlines on long-haul flights.  Buying Aer Lingus would give IAG valuable Heathrow slots, as it owns 23 pairs. This is the 3rd largest after BA which has over 50% of the total, and then Virgin (5% or so). A pair of slots at a good time of day at Heathrow might be valued at £15 million. Credit Suisse analysts said the IAG bid could be seen as a defensive reaction to Aer Lingus’s desire to siphon off transatlantic traffic.  Any sale of Aer Lingus would need the agreement of Ryanair, which holds a 29.9% stake, though it has been order to sell by competition authorities.  The Irish government also has a 25%. A deal would also require regulatory approval by Brussels.

Link to original FT story ………..

 2013 article on Heathrow slot ownership 

EU ruling on air pollution compliance is a ‘major blow’ for Heathrow Airport expansion plans

The levels of air pollution in the Heathrow area already routinely breach EU limits (the Air Quality Directive), for nitrogen dioxide, due to the concentration of road traffic in the area – in addition to the aircraft. The UK has tried to avoid a showdown with the EU by agreeing to reduce air pollution levels in line with the EU directive by 2025, but the date has since slipped to ‘post 2030’. The European Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has now rejected this plan and UK ministers will have to prepare new measures for reducing illegal pollution levels ‘as soon as possible’. The CJEU has given the UK Supreme Court responsibility for enforcing compliance with air quality law. Judges will examine the case next year. The cross-party 2M group of councils opposing a 3rd Heathrow runway say this is a ‘major blow’ for the plans. Heathrow hopes that improvement, over coming years, in road vehicle emissions will solve their problem, but this is outside their control. The 2M groups says the Supreme Court will have to be convinced about the unlikely scenario in which air pollution can be reduced -while Heathrow increases flights, road traffic and freight.”

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Complaint to Airports Commission that ££ multi-million Gatwick & Heathrow ads & PR blitz is ‘subverting democracy’

Campaigners against a new runway at Heathrow r Gatwick, have attacked the multi-million ££ advertising and PR campaigns being mounted by both airports for their expansion plans. They say this huge expenditure is “subverting democracy” and drowning out discussion of alternatives – and the basic question of whether a runway should be built at all. A coalition of environmentalists and senior MPs has written to Sir Howard Davies, the head of the Airports Commission, to say the two airports are exerting “unfair influence” because of their marketing power and huge budgets for advertising and PR. There has been a blitz of large adverts in the national press and billboards or posters in prominent places, including Westminster Tube station and also close to the offices of Airports Commission. Heathrow has placed billboards as far afield as Newcastle and Manchester. One media buying agency told The Independent that the cost of both campaigns was likely to have exceeded £7m. Heathrow has also funded an astroturfing campaign called “Back Heathrow”, and repeatedly refused to say how much it has spent – and continues to spend – on this.

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Text of phone script of Heathrow commissioned Populus poll shows degree of bias

In July to September 2014 Heathrow commissioned yet another telephone poll by Populus, on attitudes to its 3rd runway plans. The poll showed 49% net in favour, 32% net opposed and 19% neither support nor oppose. The figures are broadly similar to polls in March 2014 (48% support, 34% against, 18% unsure), November 2013 or May 2013 and there was 50% support from a Populus poll in 2007. Though Populus publish details of the numbers, they do not publish the script used for the phone interview. An enterprising resident, irritated by the polls, noted the wording when telephoned – which indicates how much bias there is in the way the poll was conducted. There was no mention that the poll was paid for by Heathrow. The most dubious question is number 11 which asks: “Are you more or less inclined to support expansion of HRW (or maybe it was a 3rd runway?) knowing that it will mean: 11.1) An additional 41,000 jobs by 2030 (options more, less, or no difference); 11.2) Doubling youth training schemes from 5,000 to 10,000 places (options more, less, or no difference); 11.3) Reduction in number of people impacted by daytime aircraft noise (options more, less, or no difference); 11.4) Reduction in night time disturbance [not specific] (options more, less, or no difference). Unbiased?

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Heathrow gets award as “Green Business of the Year” from a West London group that it sponsors

Awards ceremonies and the process of winning awards is an amazing business. Almost anything can get an award of some sort, especially if you are one of the sponsors of the award. If you want to think of any one place in the UK that is responsible for more air pollution or more carbon emissions, you will find few that beat Heathrow. But no. Heathrow has now won yet another (it has won two before) environmental award. This time it is from West London Business Awards. Heathrow was the winner in the “Green Business of the Year” category. The runner up was another sponsor of the awards, Westfield. As the local paper reports, with a tremendous Freudian slip, the Heathrow schemes were successful in ….”reduced local air quality levels.” This has all been too much for a local resident, who has “improved” on the local newspaper story, with a slight twist …. to report on the comedy awards. One of the reasons for their award was “encouraging the use of car sharing”, which is slightly spoilt by a photo, by the local writer, of a huge billboard advertising Heathrow’s new business car park.

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Heathrow hopes to overcome community opposition to 3rd runway with more extensive house purchase plans

Heathrow held a consultation on compensation arrangements earlier in the year. Hacan did not take part, believing people should not have to agree to, or comment on, entirely hypothetical proposals. Now Heathrow has felt the need to improve the generosity and scope of its compensation offer, due the manifest unfairness of its previous offer. It will now extend the offer to buy houses, for pre-blight market price plus 25%, and with £7,500 for selling costs and stamp duty. This will now cover all of Harmondsworth, Sipson, Poyle, Colnbrook, Brands Hill, Harlington and Cranford Cross. There will no longer be unfair lines, with those just outside the line missing out. There would be about 3,750 people included in the scheme. The earlier offer was for only 750 properties in Sipson and Harmondsworth that would be subject to compulsory purchase orders if there was a north west runway. Realising that communities die, and their spirit is lost, as soon as many people decide to accept cash and move out, Heathrow says they will “refurbish and sound-insulate any properties it buys before putting them back up for sale” in the forlorn hope that would prevent the community from losing its heart?

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Unknown cost to taxpayer of tunnelling M25 could equal several years total flood defence spending

If Heathrow airport was allowed to build its new north west runway, documents prepared for the Airports Commission by Jacobs indicate the cost of the works to tunnel the M25 (at its widest in that part of its circular route) could cost between £1.35bn to £3.22bn. How much Heathrow would pay is not yet clear. The cost would depend on the length of motorway affected and the cost per kilometre. Recent work to widen the M25 cost £3.4 billion for 35 kilometres. The Commission thinks that figure is too high, though it included 30 years-worth of maintenance (costing 20% of the total). The cost of the work should perhaps be around £50 million per kilometre, or more. The Commission says: “We note that the airport operator has suggested funding 50% of these works, with the remaining 50% borne by the public sector. The Airports Commission has not taken a view as to the split of funding between private and public sources and believes that this would be a matter for negotiation should the scheme be taken forward.” By contrast the Government spent £2.3 billion on floor prevention for the 4 years 2011 to 2015.

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Extent to which “Back Heathrow” is funded by Heathrow, and is not a true community campaign, revealed

“Back Heathrow” is an industry funded pressure group, the aim of which is to drum up support for a 3rd Heathrow runway. It was set up with at least £100,000 from Heathrow airport – maybe more. Its website just says that it had money from Heathrow to set up. Matt Gorman from Heathrow admitted at a public meeting in Putney on 27th November than Heathrow continues to fund it, but nobody will give any figures. “Back Heathrow” is a classic astroturfing campaign (ie. making out that it is community led, when it is not). Its co-ordinator is Rob Gray, was previously a director of the Aviation Foundation, another lobbying group established by the industry. Other staff working for Back Heathrow are current or former Heathrow employees. They have recently distributed hundreds of thousands of glossy newspapers to households across west London, with no mention anywhere on these that they are paid for (at least in part) by Heathrow. They try to give the impression of being independent information. Back Heathrow claim to have 50,000 people signed up, but this is largely due to scare tactics, implying Heathrow workers will lose their jobs without a 3rd runway. This has now been revealed by the Sunday Times

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Airports Commission consultation shows air quality problems with new runways, but no adequate data yet

The Airports Commission consultation document is aware that air quality is a major obstacle for a new Heathrow runway. It says expanding either Gatwick or Heathrow would have a negative impact on air quality, with all proposed schemes requiring expansions to local road networks to accommodate increased road traffic. For both the Heathrow runway options the Commission says “Both local Air Quality Objectives and EU limit thresholds are at risk of exceedance at a small number of monitoring sites in the local area under this scheme. While in some cases these exceedances are also forecast to occur in the do minimum scenario, there is clearly a substantial negative impact of the scheme on air quality, unless forceful mitigation measures are implemented.” But they have not been able to complete full detailed modelling of the air quality impacts of new runways and further work is needed. This unfortunately is not in time for the consultation. The Commission intends to supplement this at a future date with “more detailed dispersion modelling”. That means models to show how wind and weather disperses pollution, and it could be questioned how much faith should be placed on sufficient wind speeds in coming years.

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Launch of SHE – Stop Heathrow Expansion – fighting to save much-loved village of Harmondsworth

More than 80 people attended the inaugural Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE) meeting to bring together the opposition locally in the Harmondsworth area against Heathrow’s plans to destroy their villages. Politicians, campaigners and members of the public came together for the launch of the new action group against a north-west 3rd runway, in the beautiful and historic St Mary’s Church in Harmondsworth’s High Street. Local MP, John McDonnell called on political parties to ‘come clean’ about their positions regarding the airport’s expansion before the general election in 2015. He also urged those affected by the proposals to ‘mobilise’ and demonstrate ‘people power’. He said: “The one thing we can rely on is our own power – people power – because that’s how we won it last time.” The meeting heard that a 3rd runway would mean an extra 260,000 Heathrow flights per year as well as around 750 homes being destroyed, and hundreds more made almost uninhabitable – but with minimal compensation. SHE is not opposed to Heathrow as it is, just to its expansion. The meeting ended with heart-felt singing of the No 3rd runway song, with the chorus: “This is our home, and we will stay; No Third Runway.”

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Heathrow adverts on the Underground subvertised

It was just too tempting for someone to resist. The Underground is plastered with adverts from Heathrow airport, promoting their new runway. And promoting the idea that their runway is of vital importance to not only the travellers who fly, using their airport, but the whole UK economy. And not just now – one ad proclaims that a small child needs a new Heathrow runway for her future welfare. And now many oosters have been subvertised. The exaggerated claims of benefits from Heathrow have been substituted by more realistic text, illustrating that the carbon emissions from an expanded Heathrow would be more than any other carbon source in the UK. Larger even than the emissions of many more moderate countries, less addicted than we are to hypermobility. The advert with the small girl, which can be seen on a huge number of Tube trains, is still being investigated (for the past 2 months or so) by the Advertising Standards Authority, which is assessing the credibilty of the advert’s claims.

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Airports Commission consultation launched – on its assessments of Heathrow and Gatwick runway plans

The Commission launched its consultation on the runway hopes of Heathrow (the airport’s north west runway scheme, and the Heathrow Hub extension of the northern runway), and Gatwick. The consultation runs till 3rd February. Apart from one main consultation document, there is a main document on Heathrow, Heathrow Hub and Gatwick. There are also over 50 technical documents giving more detail. A great deal to read through and take in. Sir Howard Davies’ introduction says: ” It is particularly important for local residents and their representatives to understand more clearly what the proposals entail, and what their consequences might be for the local environment.” The Commission wants to know if people have any comments on how it has carried out its appraisals, including methodology, and if are there any relevant factors that have not been fully addressed by the Commission to date. It is also interested in evidence and ideas about how any or all of the short-listed options might be improved, or ideas for mitigation measures to address specific impacts.

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Heathrow says it has listened to local Stanwell opposition, and will not re-locate an incinerator there

There was serious concern, in September, about a proposed new incinerator in Stanwell – which was planned if Heathrow got its new north-west runway. The existing Colnbrook incinerator would have to be moved, if there was a new runway. People in Stanwell were very concerned about it planned location in the Bedfont Road area, in Stanwell. Heathrow now says it is altering its plans, and moving it (where?) due to the concerns raised by residents. A Labour county councillor said: “It’s a big expansion in a very cramped area. It’s like moving pieces around a chess board – whatever we don’t like around Stanwell will be just as massive somewhere else.” There is considerable opposition to any Heathrow expansion, which would be highly negative for most areas nearby. Heathrow seems to have told people that “some of the £16 billion of private money being invested will also be used to support the Environment Agency in developing flood prevention schemes” and it has “plans to fund a new bypass to replace the existing A3044 at Colnbrook and Poyle to ease congestion issues.” [Note “will” not “might”!].

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Divisions at top of Tory party over 3rd Heathrow runway as Hammond, Johnson and others won’t accept it

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (MP for Runnymede & Weybridge), and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, will refuse to support their own party’s policy on airport expansion at the next election, potentially opening a rift at the top of the Conservative party. They are among a batch of Tories of cabinet or equivalent rank who are expected to rebel against the official party line, which is that no decision on a new runway would be taken before the Airports Commission gives its recommendation in summer 2015. Boris continues to push for an estuary airport. Other leading Tories with south-eastern constituencies who have spoken out against a 3rd Heathrow runway include the Home Secretary, Theresa May (MP for Maidenhead); the international development secretary, Justine Greening (MP for Putney); and the Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers (MP for Chipping Barnet). The pressure for a new south east runway has come from George Osborne. Gatwick becomes more vulnerable, the more senior Tories oppose a Heathrow runway, though a Gatwick runway makes little economic or aviation sense.

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Willie Walsh says there is no business case for a 2nd Gatwick runway – BA has Gatwick’s 2nd largest number of passengers

Willie Walsh, the head of IAG, will not support a 2nd Gatwick runway, even if it is chosen by the Airports Commission or backed by the next government. He does not believe there is a business case to support its expansion, and there is insufficient demand from airlines for extra capacity at Gatwick. Mr Walsh campaigned heavily for a 3rd Heathrow runway before 2010, but has made frequent comments indicating he does not believe UK politicians will have the “courage” to build that. Willie Walsh says British Airways would resist higher landing charges, which would be necessary to fund a runway – either at Heathrow or Gatwick. (EasyJet has also said in the past they don’t want a new runway, if it means substantially higher charges – their model is low cost). BA would want lower costs, not higher costs, from a new runway. IAG’s shares have now risen as it has now made a profit at last, and will be paying its first dividend (and maybe some UK tax). Gatwick’s main airline is EasyJet with around 37% of passengers, and British Airways 2nd largest at around 14%.

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CAA 2013 Air Passenger Survey shows only 23% UK air passengers on business (30% at Heathrow, 14% at Gatwick)

The CAA has now released the data from its 2013 Air Passenger Survey. The survey asked 230,000 departing travellers at 13 of the main UK airports to fill in their surveys. The CAA carries out the annual survey (since 1968) to improve its understanding of the people who use the UK’s airports. This year the airports were: Aberdeen; Birmingham; East Midlands; Edinburgh; Gatwick; Glasgow; Heathrow; Inverness; London City; Luton; Manchester; Newcastle and Stansted. They found that • London City has the highest proportion of passengers travelling for business (55%), with the next highest being Heathrow (30%). • Airports with the highest proportion of leisure passengers were East Midlands (92%), followed by Gatwick and Luton (both 87%). • Heathrow had the highest proportion (37%) of connecting passengers, the same proportion as 2012, Gatwick had 9%. Though the aviation industry PR implies that air travel is vital for links to emerging economies for business, the reality is that only about 23% of air journeys in the UK are for business; about 30% business at Heathrow, and only about 14% at Gatwick (declining).

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Classic council nimbyism: Wandsworth Council backs Gatwick expansion – anything to avoid more Heathrow noise misery

Wandsworth Council has been a vociferous opponent of expansion at Heathrow, because its residents are badly affected by Heathrow aircraft noise. But now a motion has been voted on – unanimously – by the full Wandsworth Council, backing a new runway at Gatwick. This is a stunning example of Council nimbyism, and irresponsible self interest. Gatwick has spent a lot of money in lobbying west London councils, and this has paid off in Wandsworth. The Council rightly praises itself on its battle against Heathrow, expansion which “would deliver a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of Londoners whose lives would be blighted by noise and pollution.” They appear not to appreciate that they are advocating inflicting the same misery on other people, in Sussex, Surrey and Kent. Wandsworth even hopes Gatwick expansion will benefit them financially. Their view is based on the opinions of their unfortunate residents, who suffer significantly from Heathrow, but Wandsworth also unquestioningly backs the myth of airport expansion in the south east being “badly needed.” You can email them your views: aviation@wandsworth.gov.uk

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Over 1,000 attend packed Ascot protest meeting against Heathrow flight path trials

A hostile audience grilled Heathrow officials over trial flight paths at a public meeting in Ascot on 13th October. It was standing room only in the Pavilion at Ascot Racecourse as well over 1,000 people gathered to question the airport about the trials which have affected residents across Bracknell, Ascot and the surrounding villages. The airport has received a deluge of complaints from residents about the ‘intolerable’ and unacceptable noise caused by aircraft flying over their homes since the trials began in August. Angry residents asked about the level of noise, impact of air pollution and about the data the airport are collecting. They want the trial to stop, and for these flight path plans to be abandoned. Following the protests, Heathrow agreed to shorten the trials. Instead of ending in January, they will now end on November 12. Heathrow officials were stunned by the turnout, and are now in no doubt that they will have to radically reassess the extent of noise misery that people living in the areas affected by Heathrow are prepared to put up with in future.

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Heathrow article implies health of Scottish langoustine market depends on 3rd runway ….

An article by Bloomberg, put out as part of Heathrow’s attempts to lobby for a new runway, says (I kid you not) that we need a new runway because people have to be able to export Scottish langoustines more easily to Spain and the rest of the world. The claim the Scottish fishermen, who can make plenty of money out of the crustaceans, can’t get the flight connections from Heathrow for their exports. They claim this high value product is vital for the UK economy, however unsustainable it is to air freight shell fish half way around the globe. However, the Scottish langoustine exporters have managed quite adequately to use connections via Schiphol – from Inverness – rather than Heathrow. Heathrow cut many of its flights to regional airports, as more profit can be made from long haul flights elsewhere. The Bloomberg article is largely written for them by Heathrow, so trots out a lot of half truths and spin. Not impressive for the local people who have recently had their peace destroyed by a concentrated flight path trial – one symptom of which was the meeting attended by 1,000 + people in Ascot, leaving Heathrow in no doubt at all about their opposition to a new runway.

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Heathrow says flight paths being tested are “not indicative of future flight paths” Really?

Heathrow airport has managed to thoroughly upset and anger thousands or residents in areas affected by its flight path trials. The airport had some 500 complaints per day last month – the highest number in its history, and it can barely cope with them. There has been particular anger that there was no warning about the trials, even to the Mayor’s office or to local councils. The flight path changes are part of a drive to overhaul the UK’s airspace by 2020 and use more accurate precision navigation technology – which means narrow, concentrated flight paths that make things easier for air traffic control, to get more planes into the same airspace. NATS wants this “for the UK to remain competitive.” How Heathrow’s PR people have said that the routes being tested “are not indicative of future flight paths”. But that seems difficult to believe. Looking at maps produced by Heathrow earlier, for the Airports Commission, the routes there seem to be remarkably similar to those on trial, over Ascot and nearby areas. The document says they are “indicative and subject to consultation”. When is an indicative flight path not indicative ?

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LibDems vote against new runways in south east, keeping existing policy. NO to new Gatwick runway.

The LibDem conference has voted against an amendment, by Lorely Burt (Solihull) and Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay), to reverse Lib Dem policy of no new net runways. Party policy remains opposed to a new SE runway. The amendment proposed continuing opposition to Heathrow, but backing Gatwick expansion (Gatwick helped with conference expenses – and lobbied relentlessly). It was supported by Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Susan Kramer. However, no cabinet minister spoke in favour of it during the debate. Ed Davey and others made rather poorly informed comments about aviation becoming “cleaner and quieter” in future, meaning a new runway could be built without breaching environmental limits. “According to one party source, Clegg was also worried about going through an election campaign saying the Lib Dems would block a new runway, only for it to be agreed by parliament soon after the election.” LibDems will not back a new runway if in coalition after 2015. Julian Huppert played a central role in defeating the amendment.  Caroline Pidgeon spoke strongly against it, and tweeted that “softening on airports is bad for environment, for London and for the LibDems‘ credibility.” What this does to voters’ faith in LibDems not selling out to big business, at the expense of the environment, in future is not clear.

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Vince Cable: Gatwick runway is “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than Heathrow runway

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, is reported as saying, at the LIb Dem party conference, that he backs the expansion of Gatwick over Heathrow. His speech on Monday did not mention airports, but he is reported by the BBC as saying expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than a third runway at Heathrow. His constituency of Twickenham is close to Heathrow, and badly overflown. So it unsurprising that he has previously voiced his opposition to a new Heathrow runway. In December 2013 Mr Cable said: “The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically…. I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.” He wants the UK economy to be “knowledge based, outward looking, and green.”

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Lib Dems hoping to get more votes by dropping opposition to Gatwick runway

The Liberal Democrats voted at the 2012 conference, exactly two years ago, against any new runway at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or the Thames estuary.  But just a short time later, they have apparently abandoned their environmental principles, and decided to change policy, in the hope of saving some of their declining vote. Their pre-manifesto put out only on 9th September, reiterated the No New Runways message, though by June there were indications that they were wavering. Not there will be an amendment at the conference for a change to this policy, and for the Lib Dems to only oppose a runway at Heathrow. They are thus effectively discussing backing a Gatwick runway.  Looking at the map showing location of Lib Dem constituencies, this is quite a cynical move. It seems the party has been led to believe that planes will become substantially “quieter” and “cleaner” and so a new runway would be environmentally acceptable. The problem is that there are no step changes in either aircraft carbon emissions or noise expected for decades. There will be a debate at the Lib Dem conference on Tuesday, and the industry will be there in force, lobbying hard. 

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Willie Walsh of BA: Heathrow expansion is a ‘lost cause’

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA owner, IAG, has said again that there will not be a 3rd Heathrow runway, as it is too controversial. He says UK politicians “lack the character” to get it built. “Historically, politicians have not been brave enough and I don’t think they will be brave enough going forward. You need a big shift in the politics of the country,” he said. However, Walsh warned a Conservative or Labour-led government against choosing Gatwick for an extra runway, adding that the case for growing the capital’s second-largest airport is “significantly weaker.” Gatwick did not have the same international attraction. He said: “You won’t find many airlines that say ‘God I’d love to be able to fly to Gatwick’. That’s why this isn’t a business issue, an economic argument. It’s a political argument and the politics of expanding Heathrow are significantly more difficult than the politics of expanding Gatwick.”

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British Airways adds more Heathrow leisure routes – Olbia, Kos, Corfu – to the existing list

Heathrow airport makes a lot of how important its flights to emerging economies are, and how limited its slots are for this. So it would be logical to imagine that spare slots would be used for just this sort of flight. Heathrow is keen on making statements like: “The UK will fall behind in the global race if it cannot connect to growing economies.” And “Global air transport provides access for our key industries to established and emerging new markets, which will help deliver economic growth across the UK.” So one might expect that, if spare slots come up, they would immediately be used for these long haul destination, to emerging economies. However, Heathrow will now be getting new British Airways flights to … guess where? Olbia in Sardinia; Kos and Corfu in Greece and Split in Croatia from summer 2015. And these will use Airbus A319s and A320s. To be fair, it is moving its Las Palmas flights to Gatwick. Other purely holiday destinations Heathrow offers in the Med are Mykonos and Santorini, which started earlier this year. There are also Pisa and Porto. And the Heathrow destination map includes many, many more … Ibiza, Nice, Tunis, Malta, Malaga ….

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Heathrow bows to extent of flight path fury by bringing end of trails forward to 12th November

On 28th August Heathrow started flight path trials, testing if flight paths could be concentrated, over flying slightly fewer people – but creating far more noise for those now under the narrow flight paths, used by more planes. As soon as the trials began people were upset, disturbed and annoyed at the noise misery that had been perpetrated upon them. Protests rapidly sprang up in the Ascot, Windlesham, Lightwater, Bagshot, Teddington, Twickenham and other areas. Heathrow has been stunned by, and swamped by, the number of complaints, and has not been able to cope. Now, as a damage-limitation exercise, Heathrow has announced it will cut its trials short, ending on 12th November, rather than the original end date of 26th January 2015. In addition, trials due to start on 28th October will be postponed till autumn 2015. This is good news for those who have been suffering. However, it is not a decision to stop growth in Heathrow flights – or noise. Cynics might say that these decisions are to ensure there is less protest about flight paths between now and the May 2015 election, and the Airports Commission decision on a new runway, expected after the election, next summer.

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“We didn’t think you’d notice”: Heathrow ‘apologises’ for not informing residents of new flight paths

Matt Gorman, the sustainability director of Heathrow airport, has told people in the Bracknell and Ascot areas why they were not given notice of the flight path trials overhead. He said: “We didn’t go as far as sending letters out to all the people that would be affected as we did not feel people would notice any change.” This is scarcely credible, unless Heathrow does not follow the news about rival Gatwick at all. The flight path trials at Gatwick have provoked massive opposition, with thousands highly angry and upset. Gatwick also decided not to give the public prior warning of their trial. At a Gatwick Consultative Committee meeting in January 2014, Gatwick’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, said: “If people were aware of the trial it was possible that they would be more alert to changes and feel obliged to comment.” That backfired spectacularly. Another classic Heathrow comment recently, from Nigel Milton, to a meeting in Stanwell on 15th September, when asked why past Heathrow promises were allowed to be broken said: “The people who made those promises weren’t in a position to make these promises.” But the comment was made by the then BAA chairman, Sir John Egan. So Heathrow chairmen’s promises should not be taken seriously?

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Heathrow lodges appeal with Planning Inspectorate over protection of Cranford against take-offs

Heathrow has lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate over the London Borough of Hillingdon’s refusal, in March, to grant permission for taxiway infrastructure. If the government inspector approves the appeal, it would allow Heathrow to alternate the use of both its runways, regardless of wind direction. At present, due to the “Cranford Agreement”, made in the 1950s, planes cannot take off from the northern runway, to the east, except in exceptional circumstances. When there are easterly winds, planes therefore have to land from the west, on the northern runway, but take off from the southern runway. Ending the Cranford Agreement would give Windsor residents more respite, with up to 50% cut in the number of planes currently landing from the west of Windsor. The Cranford Agreement was formally ended in 2010, but to operate on easterly operations, Heathrow says the taxiways are required. But ending the Cranford Agreement will mean more noise, on easterly operations, for those in Old Windsor, Horton and Wraysbury, while residents in Windsor would get a better deal. People can submit comments – by 19th November. Details

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Public meeting to be held in Ascot on Monday 13th October on Heathrow flight path trials

Royal Borough of Ascot councillor, David Hilton, has taken on responsibility for organising ta public meeting on 13th October (7pm) in Ascot, on the matter of Heathrow flight paths trials. The number attending the meeting is not known, but Mr Hilton said “It’s hard to say how many people will turn up, however there have been more complaints on this issue than any other issue raised, even more than the complaints I received about Heatherwood Hospital.” The meeting will be at the Pavilion in Ascot Racecourse. Representatives from NATS and the CAA will be at the meeting to answer residents’ questions, and Nigel Milton from Heathrow will make a presentation before answering queries. Meanwhile, about 70 crammed into a meeting of Sunninghill and Ascot Parish Council last Tuesday. That had been the first chance people from the area had to address officials about the flightpaths trial. People are really concerned and frustrated about the situation. Cllr Hilton advised residents to complain whenever they are disturbed by noise, and not only once. “It’s more like a trial of the local people’s patience and resistance to noise.”

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Heathrow flight path trial over Teddington & Twickenham “could be shortened” due to volume of complaints

The Heathrow flight path trial affecting Teddington and Twickenham could be shortened – from its due end on 26th January 2015 – due to pressure from thousands of residents. Heathrow has temporarily changed easterly departure routes as part of the Government’s future airspace strategy, but the move has prompted an average of 350 complaints per day affected by the noise increase. An online petition, run by TeddingtonTown.co.uk, has received thousands of signatures from people furious with the increased noise from planes and those calling for an end to the trials. Twickenham MP Vince Cable has stepped in and demanded an urgent meeting with senior management at the airport. He said: “There has always been a problem with easterly take offs over local residences, especially late at night, but the latest trials have had especially serious impacts in Teddington.” Mr Cable knows well that the increased noise is a sign of what could happen on a permanent basis if there is a 3rd runway. There is due to be a public consultation about defining permanent routes in 2016 and the final decision is taken by government.

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Does Heathrow advert implying a small girl needs a 3rd runway, for her future, meet Advertising Standards?

Earlier this week, Heathrow put out full page advertisements for their 3rd runway. This is part of an on-going, and expensive media campaign. However, they may have mis-judged the tone of this one. It features a small girl, aged about 5, with her hand up – and the text makes out that her future well being will depend upon ….. guess what?? …. a new Heathrow runway. The advert says the 3rd runway will deliver “… at least £100 billion of economic benefits [no timescale given] the length and breadth of the country. …. So, even if our little girl never leaves home, she’ll still feel the benefit.” People may have been inspired to write to the Advertising Standards Authority, to complain about this rather dubious text, with unsubstantiated claims, making use of a small child, to try to make a PR point. One such letter to the ASA has been copied to AirportWatch, in which the writer clearly puts the case that what this child needs is a stable climate for her future, not accelerating carbon emissions. The writer believes the advert to be misleading, and asks the ASA to have it withdrawn.

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Heathrow seeks 20-year landing charge deal with CAA so investors will fund 3rd runway

For many years, Heathrow has been in dispute with the CAA about the level of charges to airlines using the airport. It is now reported to be demanding a 20-year deal on landing charges in return for building a 3rd runway. Heathrow says it needs a fundamental review of the regulatory regime, where prices are reviewed every five years, if it is to bear the risk of the £15 billion capital outlay that a new runway would require. The request, part of its 400-page submission to the Airports Commission, is likely to infuriate airline customers, who have been complaining bitterly about its high passenger charges. Assessment of the financial viability, and possibility, of the runway proposals is part of the task of the Airports Commission. Heathrow said a deal on regulation needs to cover a period “from the point of committing the first significant investment, for at least 15 years” and it wants the government to guarantee that all “efficiently incurred” expenditure is included in the company’s regulated asset base (means a proxy for an airport’s value – which rises in line with investment in new facilities, such as terminals and runways) in future — with safeguards to prevent write-downs.

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Heathrow flight path trials branded an “omnishambles” by councillor, given no prior warning (and then asked to back 3rd runway)

During a full Bracknell Forest Council meeting on 17th a motion put forward by Councillor Marc Brunel-Walker to ensure the borough’s residents views are considered by the airport was unanimously carried. The motion came after councillors received complaints from people in Winkfield, Warfield, Binfield and Ascot who noticed a large amount of planes flying over their homes in July. Local MP Adam Afriye, who himself lives in Old Windsor, knows the problem. He has said he will continue his 10-year campaign to fight any changes in flights which expose residents to higher levels of aircraft noise. He has received extensive correspondence from distressed residents who feel the aircraft noise pattern has changed and is now unbearable. Bracknell councillors are very angry they were not consulted by Heathrow in advance of the trials. One councillor said he was disgusted to receive no information about the trial, but at the same time get a letter asking him to back Heathrow’s campaign for a 3rd runway. He said: “This has been an own goal in PR terms, the only way to describe it is an omnishambles….The irony of neighbours receiving this letter should not escape any of us.”

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Anger as Heathrow’s latest flight path trials subject thousands to unacceptable noise levels

Heathrow is conducting trials of new flight paths, both to the west and to the east of the airport. Since the easterly trial started (28th July) and the westerly trial started (25th August) the airport has been swamped with complaints. The complaints line can no longer cope. For many people, there has been a sudden and unacceptable increase in noise. The changed, concentrated, routes have been blamed for the “unacceptable and intolerable” noise above a number of Surrey villages. Some of the worse affected areas to the west are Englefield Green, Egham, Thorpe, Virginia Water, Windlesham, Bagshot, Lightwater, Sunninghill and Ascot. Petitions to the airport have been set up in Ascot, Lightwater and now in Englefield Green, asking that the trials be stopped. People feel that even after the end of the trials that ended in June, the increased noise from them has continued. People living under the new, concentrated, routes are now subjected to more, louder, aircraft noise as late as 11.50pm and as early as 6am. The purpose of all this is to get more flights off Heathrow’s runways, so the airport can be more profitable for its foreign owners.

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Concerns raised at Stanwell meeting on Heathrow expansion plans for incinerator, flood pit and car park

Proposals for a new flood pit, car park and incinerator in Stanwell as part of Heathrow’s expansion plans were lambasted by over 60 residents at a public meeting on 15th September. The meeting focused on issues surrounding a car park dominating the biodiversity area north of the village hall and west of Oaks Road, an incinerator in the Bedfont Road area and a flood pit in Stanwell Moor. The feeling was that residents are not against progress, not against air travel, but they do not want unsuitable developments in the borough. Spelthorne already has one of the highest rates of deaths attributable to air pollution in the South East. Residents fear the effects of the polluted water from Heathrow being stored in the flood pit, especially after the problems with flooding this spring. Jonathan Deegan, chief planner at Heathrow, said: “All this has to go somewhere.” A resident asked why past promises were allowed to be broken, including an inspector who had said in a consultation meeting that Terminal 4 would be the last terminal. Nigel Milton, director of policy and political relations for Heathrow, said: “The people who made those promises weren’t in a position to make these promises.” So any promises could be broken again then?

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Teddington petition to Heathrow to stop the easterly departures trial and not allow it to become permanent

Finding themselves now affected by a newly concentrated flight path for Heathrow easterly departures, people in Teddington are now up in arms about the intensified noise. The trial started on 28th July and is due to last till 15th January 2015. They have set up a petition, to Heathrow, to ask that the current noise level does not continue. The flight path trials are part of the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) with the aim of getting ever more planes using Heathrow, more efficiently. People in Teddington are angry that Heathrow have stated that: “Before the trials started in December last year we briefed local authorities; residents groups; campaign groups and MPs around Heathrow” yet Heathrow will not provide any details on who was contacted and when. In reality most people were not informed or warned. They would have liked to have been informed (so much for airports stating how much better they are getting at communication with communities ….). The affected residents are calling on Heathrow to halt these trials as soon as possible due to the negative impact on the quality of life they are causing for many people. They also call on Heathrow to recommend that the flight path changes are not made permanent.

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BackHeathrow postal survey described as of the “do you support expansion of Heathrow or the boiling of puppies” variety

There is a good blog post by Matt Ballantine, a resident of Twickenham, on the latest survey which is being circulated by the campaign lobby, “BackHeathrow”. The organisation was set up with money from Heathrow, to lobby on its behalf. How much funding comes from other sources is not clear. Twickenham is an area now suffering from altered, concentrated Heathrow flight paths. The BackHeathrow survey came through the post, and Matt describes it as of the “do you support the expansion of Heathrow or the boiling of puppies” variety, that he says seem to be so popular amongst political lobby groups. The survey is worded in such a way as to give highly leading questions, and give the impression that Heathrow is likely to close if it does not build a 3rd runway. That was never a realistic threat, and especially as the chance of a Thames estuary airport has significantly receded. The BackHeathrow survey aims to instil fear of losing their jobs into people who work at the airport, or in connected jobs. Matt comments that “This is no way to have an important debate …. In an age when information is so easily disseminated (and checked), organisations that think that it’s enough to gather false data to present their case are on very thin ice.”

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Boris gives evidence to Env Audit Committee – Heathrow 3rd runway would make meeting air quality targets impossible

Boris Johnson has appeared before the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to answer questions on air quality issues, which have resulted in the UK facing legal action from Brussels. Boris has been accused of trying to mislead MPs over the success of his efforts to reduce air pollution, as he again urged the government to adopt his proposals for a diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers move towards cleaner vehicles. The UK has have failed to meet legal NO2 limits and now faces legal action and potential fines from the European Commission for failing to comply. Johnson argued that a scrappage scheme was only fair to the “punters” that had been “seduced” into buying a diesel car. On Heathrow, he said a 3rd runway would be a “nightmare” for meeting the EU air quality directive, and make it impossible to meet the air quality targets for London. He said expanding Heathrow would increase vehicular pollution, despite earlier claiming building new roads elsewhere would reduce it. There have been suggestions that Heathrow air pollution, with a new runway, could only be reduced by a local congestion charge near the airport.

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Heathrow claim 60% of MPs back 3rd runway. Survey actually reveals it was only 55 MPs out of 95 interviewed. Not 650.

Heathrow airport has commissioned a survey by highly respected polling company, Ipsos Mori. They wanted to see how many MPs back a 3rd Heathrow runway. There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. Heathrow is proudly claiming that “58% of MPs back a third runway at Heathrow”. So that means the survey found that 390 MPs thought that ? Really? Amazing! But that is NOT the case at all. The Ipsos Mori survey only in fact interviewed 95 MPs. They say they interviewed 143, but then cut the number back to 95. These were, in theory, “interviewed to closely represent the profile of the House of Commons” – quite how is not explained. What the survey actually found was that just 55 MPs (58% of 95 MPs) said they backed a 3rd Heathrow runway. And when only these 55 MPs – not the whole 95 – were asked if they thought a 3rd Heathrow runway would get parliamentary approval, only 44 thought it was likely (of these only 18 thought it was very likely). This really is taking liberties with polling. Heathrow’s rather extravagantly claim that the poll “explodes the myth that Heathrow is politically undeliverable” looks frankly threadbare … and a bit desperate?

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Formula 1 boss’s fury over new Heathrow aircraft noise – at least with Formula 1 people know where the noise is

A significant Formula One car racing engineer, who lives in Sunninghill under a Heathrow flight path test route, has joined an increasing band of residents complaining about the new flight paths over Bracknell and Ascot. He describes them as “intolerable”. The chief technical officer at Formula One team Red Bull Racing has hit out at Heathrow after its new trial flight paths started last Thursday, for 5 months. The aims of the trials are to try to reduce ‘stacking’, speeding up departure times to cut departure intervals, so increasing airport profits. He said though having lived in Sunninghill since 1997 and the noise has never been an issue before. “It is pretty intolerable because currently we have planes flying over our heads at 11pm at night …. it’s very antisocial really. ….I can’t even sit in my garden and socialise with my friends because it is just too noisy. There has been no proper consultation…” Realising he himself works in a very noisy industry, he said “… with Formula One is that there are no new race tracks being built anywhere, so people who buy houses next to race tracks know what they are getting.” There is an active petition in the Ascot area against the flight path trials, with around 2,400 signatures today.

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HACAN to distribute 50,000 copies of newspaper “Third Runway News” setting out reasons against it

September 6, 2014

Third runway newsHACAN has proudly launched a new local newspaper, called “Third Runway News,” a new publication which provides residents of west London, east Berkshire and north Surrey with the facts about what an expanded Heathrow Airport would mean for them. It is 4 pages in full colour, illustrated – link at Third Runway News. HACAN is a residents-led campaign, and by contrast with the millions of ££s that Heathrow airport has for its publicity, benefits from the work of local volunteers. The new newspaper has been designed by a local HACAN member, not by a hugely expensive professional design company. The paper asks people to get in touch to say which of the many impacts of a 3rd runway they are most concerned about. These include noise pollution, air pollution, increased car traffic, loss of their home – or loss of the value of their home, or impacts on children and schools from aircraft noise. Meanwhile Heathrow airport have massive adverts, containing extravagant claims for “benefits” of a 3rd runway, (with no supporting evidence), such as “120,000 more jobs” and “£100 billion of economic benefits (not time-scale indicated)” and “loss of £125 billion per month in last trade” for every month without the new runway. Really??

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Prime Economics: “Out of thin air – the economic case for a 3rd Heathrow runway”

Prime Economics, a group of independent economic thinkers, has taken a look at Heathrow’s claims about the economic case for a 3rd runway. They are not impressed. While Heathrow (see its latest advert) says: “If we want Britain’s economy to keep growing, we need to grow Heathrow”, the reality is very different. Among Heathrow’s dodgy 3rd runway economic claims, they say: “• It will bring economic benefits of £100bn • It will bring 120,000 new jobs • Every month the problem goes unresolved is costing the British economy £1.25bn through lost trade”. Prime Economics says “the evidence for each of these is very thin and hypothetical …. The link between trade and airport capacity is at best indirect, and certainly opaque. At a macroeconomic level, the impact is simply invisible.” They say “Economies depend on many factors, and hub capacity is one of the least significant, at least once you reach a decent threshold of scale.” They pick to pieces the £1.25 billion figure; the idea that the UK needs flights to every destination in every country; and the hub competition between EU countries. “The current debate assumes exponential growth both of our economies and of our travel into the indefinite future. This will not happen … Airports …are not the main drivers of economic success nor of national well-being.” Well worth reading.

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CBI report hopes to get Airports Commission to back a huge hub – for ever increasing aviation

The CBI has produced a report, putting pressure on the Airports Commission (don’t they all…) to “deliver recommendations to solve the UK’s shortage of runway capacity and spark new connections with the export markets of tomorrow.” They want a huge hub airport with plenty of spare capacity to grow further, which allegedly is needed for economic growth. Part of the report’s title is “The Hub is the Nub.” They want a new runway soon, with spades in the ground by 2020. They then want a second new runway well before 2050. The report looks entirely, from a very narrow perspective, on growth of the economy. It looks only at business. The words tourism, leisure travel, holiday, carbon emissions, and climate change do not feature at all. Nor noise. It is written with heavy blinkers to realities outside business and continuous growth perspectives. Heathrow has interpreted it as backing their runway. The report does not in fact specify which airport they want; they just want two more runways, and what the hell with any other impacts or consequences. Perhaps they are not aware that the vast majority of UK flights are low cost, for holidays, leisure of visiting friends and family. By airlines that make little profit.

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Aircraft Noise petition from  Lightwater, Windlesham and Bagshot

Stop the Flight Path trials

In the 3 Villages area (Lightwater, Windlesham and Bagshot) residents have been impacted both by the latest trials – that started on 28th August 2014 – as well as those which ended on 15th June.

With local feelings running high, people in this began a campaign and now also have an online petition with links from their website at  www.aircraftnoiselightwater.co.uk

Following contact with John Holland-Kaye in early August, the campaign has secured a meeting with Cheryl Monk, (Head of Community Relations and Policy)  to which residents of all affected areas are invited (both 3 Villages and Ascot will attend) –  this meeting will take place on Monday, October 13, at 7pm at the Pavilion in Ascot Racecourse.

There is a  Change.org petition to the Heathrow complaints team, here   They say: 

“Flights are passing overhead, lower, louder and later than ever before disturbing all aspects of everyday life.   Flights continue as late as 11.30pm and as early as 6am – a period when a reasonable person expects the right to peace and quiet.

“Local residents are now opposed to any more expansion at Heathrow and call for an IMMEDIATE end to the flight path trial!”


Ascot area residents’ petition to end new Heathrow flight path trial


Residents in the area in and around Ascot (not far from Heathrow) have a Change.org petition asking that the new Heathrow flight path trial, which started in the last few days, should immediately be ended. It is causing considerable noise nuisance, and making life there unpleasant.
Residents can see the planes very clearly from their gardens, and the noise is so loud now it disturbs any conversation they have outside.

Petition to end the flight path trial

Heathrow flight path changes / trial inflict more noise misery on Ascot area

Heathrow airport and NATS are experimenting with flight path changes and new technology systems for Heathrow flights. The aim is to reduce ‘stacking’ of aircraft waiting to land, and to speed up departure times, getting more planes in the air per hour – in order make the airport more efficient (or more profitable). There is a series of trials, over a period of years from 2012 to 2017, advertised on Heathrow’s website. They are to inform the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) consultation. One trial, for departures to the west, started on 28th August and will last till January 2015. It will test how sharply aircraft are able to turn on take-off and how fast they can climb. The results will be factored into Heathrow’s revision of flight paths that are required under the European ‘SESAR’ programme. The reality for people being over-flown is that there are now more aircraft passing over Ascot, Sunningdale and Sunninghill, and these planes are low (around 3,000 feet) and climbing. The gaps between planes are also shorter than before. A petition has been set up by people in the Ascot area, to get the trial ended immediately. The new noise barrage has created new fears in those areas of the impact of a 3rd runway.

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Boris Johnson: 3rd runway at Heathrow would be a ‘disaster’ – adamant on “need” for new estuary airport

Boris Johnson has rebuffed calls to back a 3rd runway at Heathrow, saying it would be a “disaster”. He said Heathrow’s plans were “desperately short-sighted” and “barbarically contemptuous of the rights of the population”, whose health he said would be put at risk. The Airports Commission is expected to announce this week if it will drop plans for a massive airport in the Thames estuary. A few days earlier, Heathrow’s new chief executive John Holland-Kaye wrote an open letter to Boris asking him to back a 3rd Heathrow runway, if the Commission rejected the estuary – quite an “ask” bearing in mind Boris’ forceful opposition to it in the past. Writing today in the Daily Telegraph Boris said: “We need scale and ambition to compete, and Heathrow is no answer.” He said a Heathrow 3rd runway would be “a disaster for hundreds of thousands of people living under new flight paths, who currently have no idea of the peril…..Heathrow is already by far the noisiest airport in Europe, about a hundred times worse than Paris. A 3rd runway will mean there are more than a million people in the city affected by noise pollution of more than 55db.”

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Holland-Kaye open letter to Boris asking him to back Heathrow runway if estuary plan rejected by Airports Commission

Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has appealed to the London mayor, Boris Johnson, to back its campaign for a 3rd runway, ahead of the possible dismissal of his own Thames estuary scheme from consideration by the Airports Commission. In an open letter to Boris, Holland-Kaye says he and Boris share the same belief that only a large, hub airport can (allegedly) provide the scale and range of global flights that – they claim – the economy needs. Neither of them believe a new runway at Gatwick would give what they claim the UK “needs.” Holland-Kaye’s letter says: “We have nothing against Gatwick but you have rightly identified that its claim that it can deliver the same benefits as a hub airport is ‘a sham, a snare and a delusion’.” Boris said, of Heathrow’s 3rd runway plans, last year: “Anyone who believes there would be the space to do that at Heathrow, which already blights the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners, is quite simply crackers.” The situation has been complicated by Boris’ decision to apply to become MP for Uxbridge. He said in May: “I will respect the findings of the Davies Commission but I will not abide by them.”

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4 minute film from Grow Heathrow, showing peaceful resistance techniques

Interesting short video by Grow Heathrow http://vimeo.com/104170032 that is peacefully (but with total determination) resisting eviction. The film shows not only successful tactics against eviction but how a strong community can defend itself from the threat of destruction, but something like the building of a runway. This sort of protest against developments, damaging socially and environmentally, is not only used at Heathrow.       August 2014

“Grow Heathrow” squatters in Sipson pledge ‘peaceful’ resistance to bailiffs, due to evict them

The remarkable “Grow Heathrow”squatter community, occupying land near Heathrow in protest at the airport’s expansion, are expected to be evicted by bailiffs today – or soon. They say they will “peacefully” resist, but a range of non-violent means, including digging tunnels and locking themselves onto items. Grow Heathrow, which includes some 15 families, moved onto a derelict site near Sipson in 2010. The privately owned land had been a wasteland, and an area for anti-social activities. Grow Heathrow cleared rubbish from the site, and created a garden, as well as being as self sufficient in food as possible. They also ran creative and artistic workshops, and a positive and productive community. However, the land owner wants the land back, perhaps for sale to Heathrow airport (their 3rd runway plans would make most of Sipson impossible to live in). Many local people in Sipson have been delighted to have Grow Heathrow as neighbours, rather than a derelict site. The local MP, John McDonnell said he “wholeheartedly” supported the activists. “These are people who not only helped us fight off the third runway, they’ve actually occupied a site which would have been the sixth terminal for the expanded Heathrow Airport.”

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Heatwave blamed for record number of complaints about Heathrow noise

Heathrow anti-noise group, HACAN, says nearly 300 people contacted it during July to complain about aircraft noise, more than three times the monthly average. The weather was warm in the south east in July, with a good summer. That means people spent more time outside, and they slept with windows open. That led to even more awareness of aircraft noise than there is in cooler weather. The record number of noise complaints was due to a combination of warm temperatures and a record 6.97 million passengers using Heathrow during July. John Stewart, Chair of HACAN said: “It puts into perspective Heathrow’s current consultation on compensation if a 3rd runway is ever built. You simply can’t compensate people for the disturbance of planes thundering over as they sit in their gardens trying to enjoy the summer sunshine….. Just imagine how much worse the noise could be with a third runway and at least 250,000 more flights each year using Heathrow.” Heathrow itself received 603 complaints about noise in July, only a slight rise on the 578 made during July 2013. They acknowledge that: …”an airport of the size and importance of Heathrow can have downsides for people living nearby.”

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Boris Johnson’s opposition to Heathrow could derail his bid to be Uxbridge MP

Boris Johnson has announced plans to contest a seat in the summer 2015 election and is understood to be in talks to stand in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. He has been included on the official Conservative candidates list, allowing him to stand in Uxbridge. However, the constituency in west London contains thousands of voters who work at Heathrow who would fiercely oppose Mr Johnson’s candidacy. Boris has described a Heathrow 3rd runway as “bollocks”, and also said he will continue to campaign against high-speed rail. Boris believes, along with his completely unworkable and impossibly environmentally damaging Thames estuary airport scheme, that Heathrow should be close down and turned into a “tech city” with housing areas, a university etc. The Labour candidate running in the Uxbridge constituency opposes closing Heathrow and will try and turn any contest with Boris into a debate about Heathrow. A body of opinion believes Boris will have difficulty in winning in Uxbridge unless he reverses his call for Heathrow to be closed. Boris has described Heathrow as “a dead duck” and said he will “fight to my dying breath” to halt a 3rd runway.

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Thousands of Londoners would hear a plane “every 90 seconds for 13 hours/day” if Heathrow 3rd runway is built

Heathrow knows it cannot get a 3rd runway unless it can somehow persuade people that there will be less noise from 50% more aircraft than there is today. In order to try and achieve this miraculous result, some massaging of figures is needed, and some clever use of statistics. In reality, it is likely that with three runways, tens of thousands of people in west London would lose half of their daily “noise-free” period (from runway alternation – switching runway at 3pm). HACAN, the group campaigning against the noise impacts of Heathrow, and thus against Heathrow’s expansion, say some areas would have planes passing overhead every 90 seconds for a “nightmarish” 13 hours a day. HACAN discovered the noise data “buried” in an appendix to one of Heathrow’s reports sent to the Airports Commission and “slipped out” before the holidays. It appears likely that residents under the southern flight path, including areas such as Richmond, would lose almost 4 hours of their 8 hour quiet period. People living under the current northern flight path would continue to get about 8 hours of respite but HACAN claim this would be spoiled for many because they would hear aircraft from one of the two other runways on either side of them.

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Heathrow campaign, HACAN, will not be taking part in the consultation on noise compensation, for a 3rd runway

On 21st July Heathrow published a consultation on how it hopes to persuade thousands of people, who would be badly affected by increased aircraft noise from its operations, to accept money as compensation. It is offering £550 million, if it is allowed to build a 3rd runway, in various schemes. The £550 million is a one-off, not an annual sum. The aim is to buy off opposition. The existence of the consultation aims to convey the impression that a 3rd runway is inevitable, and that Heathrow is being stunningly generous. Neither is true. The community group dealing in particular with noise due to Heathrow, HACAN, has had numerous complaints from residents who are furious about the assumptions being made in the Heathrow consultation. They do not like being steamrollered into discussions about compensation for something they deeply oppose. HACAN will not be taking any part in the consultation, and not encouraging its members to do so. They feel the compensation discussion “puts the cart before the horse”. Providing Heathrow with assistance in how best to win over residents, whose quality of life will be reduced by a new runway, is not in the interests of those overflown, now or in the future.

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Restrictions on UK ‘night flights’ at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted extended until 2017

In the Government’s response to the Airports Commission’s December 2013 interim report, Patrick McLoughlin announced that plans to more than double the number of ‘night flights’ at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports have been postponed until 2017. Under proposals outlined in the Commission’s interim report the number of planes allowed to land at the airport before 6am each day would have increased from 16 to 35 from 2015. The government now says it wants to ensure “regulatory stability” at south east airports while the Commission makes its final recommendations on which airport should be recommended to be allowed to build a new runway. The government is also extending the ban on “rare movements made by older noisier types of aircraft.” McLoughlin said: “This decision will help give certainty around the night noise environment for those living near the airports, as well as ensuring operational capacity at these airports is not affected pending decisions on any new airport capacity in light of the commission’s final report.” The government has also postponed the Commission’s recommendation for an Independent Aviation Noise Authority.

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Improving its passenger service would undercut Heathrow’s case for a 3rd runway

In much the same way as landowners, especially in the Green Belt, tend to try to let their land get into such bad condition that planners allow planning permission on it, so it is with Heathrow. A comment piece by Philip Stephens, an associate editor of the Financial Times, reflects how Heathrow has a vested interest in managing to make the service they provide inadequate. The more passengers are inconvenienced – and told it is because the airport is so full – the stronger Heathrow hopes its case becomes to be allowed to expand. Philip says: “Absolute genius…….[Heathrow wants passengers to believe that] … If the government gave the go-ahead for expansion – specifically a 3rd runway – all would be well. Try that again: the only way to improve the dismal lot of passengers is guarantee Heathrow still higher profits. As I said, brilliant!” And “Heathrow dominates London’s air traffic and the two companies [Heathrow and BA] have a quasi-monopoly. They are extracting large rents. This is how monopolists behave, the more so when overseen by a weak regulator. Most importantly, a half-decent level of passenger service would be counter-productive because it would undercut the case for that 3rd runway.”

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Flight path changes could create nationwide protests due to the scale of the areas affected

Writing in a blog, in response to the huge anger and upset there has been around Gatwick in response to the flight path trial over Warnham and nearby villages (called the ADNID trial, in the jargon), John Stewart anticipates that flightpath trials are going to be a real headache for the industry for years to come. He says “flightpath” will be the ‘F’ word that will be on everybody’s lips over the next few years. The big changes to flightpaths which are expected over the next 5 – 6 years could trigger protests on a scale that could exceed the opposition to any proposed new runway. In their scope, they could be more like the ‘anti-roads’ protests of the 1990s. The aviation industry is currently undertaking the most far-reaching changes to airspace across the UK for 60 years, due to the EU scheme, SESAR. It is changes to the Heathrow flight paths that are making the industry particularly nervous. That’s the reason why flightpaths at Gatwick and London City are being looked at first – and why Heathrow is very tentatively experimenting with new take-off techniques. “What will worry Heathrow in particular is that the consultation on its flight path changes, expected around 2016/17, could coincide with the decision of the next Government as to whether or not to back a 3rd runway.”

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Heathrow 3rd runway would mean demolishing Colnbrook incinerator and relocating it – maybe to Stanwell?

The Heathrow airport plan for a 3rd runway to the north-west of the airport, demolishing most of Harmondsworth and making Sipson impossible to live in, also demolishes the current incinerator at Colnbrook, run by Grundon. In Heathrow’s expansion plans they propose that a new incinerator should be built just south of the airport, in Stanwell -between Long Lane and Stanwell Farm. This is, at best, controversial. Residents are concerned about the prospect of an incinerator so close to their homes and with the spectre of the eco-park in Shepperton also looming, questions of just how much Spelthorne can take are being asked. The hope it, by advocates of locating a new incinerator there, that the prevailaing wind from the west would blow any pollution away from Stanwell, and towards the east or north east. Incinerators are unpopular in most areas, as people fear not only dioxins in air pollution, but also the associated heavy traffic from lorries. People in Spelthorne are not convinced they want to host two large incinerators.

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Holland-Kaye wants raised Heathrow landing charge, and public subsidy by cutting APD, to pay for runway

John Holland-Kaye has now taken over as CEO of Heathrow, from Colin Matthews. He has already angered airlines by saying he wants to give an adequate return to foreign investors in a 3rd runway, by raising the landing charges at Heathrow. Mr Holland-Kaye wants the landing charge to rise – in real terms – from £20 now, per passenger, to £24 within a few years, and it might rise to £27 by around 2040 (though predictions that far ahead are futile). Heathrow has been battling with its regulator, the CAA, for years on the level of its aeronautical charges. The CAA recently cut its cost of capital to 5.35% in the 5 years to 2019, though Heathrow says its weighted average cost of capital needs to be 6% in the period between 2019 and 2048, to repay its investors. Mr Holland-Kaye also let slip that he wants a cut in Air Passenger Duty (APD) on long haul flights, which would effectively be a loss to the Treasury, and thus be the equivalent of a public subsidy, for a 3rd Heathrow runway. The level of APD on the longest flights was cut this year in the budget, combining the two top distance bands, effectively giving them a government subsidy. He also said he “could not rule out the case for a 4th one in the future.”

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Heathrow’s noise claims do not stack up, according to new reports

Heathrow’s claims that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate for residents do not stack up, according to analysis done by HACAN. Their new briefing, “Do Heathrow’s noise claims stack up?” has compared Heathrow’s arguments with the findings of 2 recently-published reports (by the CAA and by the Mayor of London) and concludes that “Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence.” The most damning indictment of Heathrow is in the Atkins report showing their claim that a 3rd runway will mean “at least 30% noise reduction” by 2030 is based on the assumption that the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity. Both reports challenge Heathrow’s prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026, when any new runway is expected to open, will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft. They are dubious of steeper landings, and believe people under the current flight paths will get shorter respite periods in order to give people under the new flight paths some respite too. HACAN chair John Stewart said the 2 new independent reports illustrate the near-impossibility of sorting out noise at Heathrow.

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EasyJet CEO still has no details of the practical economics of a Heathrow or Gatwick runway

In an interview, by Buying Business Travel, with Caroline McCall, the CEO of EasyJet she said Heathrow is an expensive airport, which is why they do not fly from there. On Gatwick’s and Heathrow’s bids for runway expansion she says: “We’ve seen none of the economics behind either of those visions. Inevitably it will be the airlines and therefore the passengers, that will fund this. Therefore, it’s a very, very big decision for Easyjet – because any increase in passenger fares is something that affects our low-fare proposition”….”We make £7 profit per seat – that’s it. We’ve raised that from £4.50 over the last four years. I think Heathrow are talking around £15 billion, Gatwick are talking around £7-8 billion. If you think about the price per passenger for that, you can see we have to be really, really careful about any capacity going into either airport, and before we take a view on it, we have to understand the economics.” And they want to focus on more business travellers: “because we know we get higher yields.”

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For earlier Heathrow airport news, see