Five facts Heathrow doesn't want you to know about noise misery

Monday 4 March: Councils in boroughs facing blanket noise misery from an expanded Heathrow are calling on the airport to spell out the real price communities will have to pay to satisfy its demand for growth.

Five local authority leaders say there are five key facts which are either missing or not spelt out clearly in the airport's current publicity material.

KEY FACT 1 - The number of people already affected by noise from Heathrow is more than all the major European hub airports put together.

KEY FACT 2 - The combination of arrivals and departures and new flight paths will mean seven-days-a-week noise for hundreds of thousands of people.

KEY FACT 3 - In many west London boroughs and Home Counties areas the number of communities newly exposed to noise will mean virtually no part of those boroughs will be safe from noise.

KEY FACT 4 - The current eight-hour respite which people in west London enjoy when aircraft switch runways will be slashed to just four hours.

KEY FACT 5 - The airport is backtracking on the Airport Commission's recommendation for a night flight ban between 11.30pm and 6am as a condition of support for a third runway.

Leaders representing Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Windsor and Maidenhead councils say no parts of their boroughs will be spared aircraft noise if the third runway goes ahead.

The situation will be repeated across vast swathes of West London and the Home Counties and include central boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster.

Cllr Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, said: "When MPs were voting on a third runway none of them knew just how devastating the effect on residents' homes, health and wellbeing was likely to be. We have all been kept in the dark about where the extra flights would go, with this latest consultation yet another exercise in smoke and mirrors. We are looking forward to taking our fight against expansion to the High Court."

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said: "The latest consultation while at last revealing the wider extent of the noise misery that Heathrow will inflict on residents still fails to paint the full picture. The price communities will have to pay for expansion could include noise seven days a week, with daily periods of respite cut by half. Heathrow is quite simply the wrong airport in the wrong place for this amount of growth.  We all know the damaging health effects of this level of exposure to noise. It is simply perverse to solve one airport's demand for more capacity by putting at risk the heath of millions of people."

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "This isn't just about our boroughs - the impact from noise could affect people within the whole M25 area. This includes people who suffer from overflying already and who will now get more noise and less respite - and others who will experience noise for the first time. It's a plague on all our houses. None of the MPs who voted for expansion knew at the time how their communities would be affected. The real impact of the third runway was hidden from all of us. It beggars belief that expansion on this scale could be allowed to go ahead on the basis of such incomplete information."

Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: "Adding what is essentially another airport the size of Gatwick to Heathrow will significantly increase noise, congestion and pollution across west London stretching all the way along the M4 and past Windsor. There are much better projects our country can spend £18 billion of taxpayers' money on. Meanwhile, the Heathrow consultation appears deliberately confusing. I think they're hoping people won't wake up to the problems with their scheme for a third runway until it's too late. That's why we're taking legal action. People deserve better."

Cllr Simon Dudley, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, added: "We will be arguing in court that the Transport Secretary had a legal duty to identify all the areas that might be affected. Instead it is being left to the local authorities to work this out for their residents."

The airport, which wants to add an extra 25,000 flights a year in advance of a third runway opening, is consulting on new 'design envelopes', which show just where the new flight paths needed to accommodate expansion could go.

The potential routes depend on the introduction of new 'curved' approaches which would allow aircraft to join the final approach at a point closer to the airport than is currently possible.

The airport's current annual capacity limit is set at 480,000 movements. The proposal to add 25,000 flights on existing runways before the third runway is open would breach this limit and would require a new planning consent as part of the permission for a third runway.

Most of the additional movements are expected to occur before 6am and 7am, with up to 25 extra arrivals in this period.

A third runway is projected to increase the number of movements by more than half to 740,000 per annum.

The 'Airspace and Future Operations' consultation closes today (Monday 4 March).

Hillingdon is one of a coalition of councils seeking judicial review of the government's decision to give policy support for a third Heathrow runway. The group is challenging the government on grounds including air pollution, climate change, noise and surface access impacts.

The hearing is set to begin in the High Court on Monday 11 March.

The group comprises the London boroughs of Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond and Hammersmith and Fulham, Windsor and Maidenhead Council, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace.

Page last updated: 09 Feb 2022