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The deadline for feedback to the Airports Commission’s last public consultation is on February 3rd 2015 11:45pm. This feedback will shape the next stage of the commission and ultimately the final advice to the government.
The commission documents provided in the assessment of proposals for additional runway capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow run to several thousands of pages and are very technical. However, you can simply email the Airports Commission to say in your own words what your opinion is of plans for third runway.
Send your comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your home address and postcode.
Mary Macleod MP has summarised below some of the key points on what she feels are the negative aspects of Heathrow expansion. You may also find the following summary papers prepared by HACAN useful:
Below are Mary Macleod's points for consideration, as submitted to the Airports Commission.
- Number of people affected – The Commission estimates that up to 920,000 people would be impacted by aircraft noise if a 3rd runway is built at Heathrow. This is a staggering number of people compared to the figure of 35,000 people that would be impacted if Gatwick expands. Crucially, this would also include up to 300,000 people who are not currently impacted by aircraft noise and Heathrow has admitted that it dealt with almost five times the number of complaints from local residents about aircraft noise in 2014 compared to the previous year due to its trials of new flight paths. This is nothing compared to the protests they would receive if new runways are built.
- Noise measurement - The fact the Commission is moving away from using the discredited 57 LAeq contour as the way to measure noise annoyance and is moving towards the more realistic 55Lden contour recommended by Europe is an important step forward. However, we know that people outside these contours are also impacted by aircraft noise and studies have shown that the number of flights overhead is a significant factor. Adding 260,000 additional flights at Heathrow, regardless of the noise efficiency of new planes, will impact local residents and this must not be ignored by the Commission.
- Noise contours - Currently the noise contours from Heathrow and London City Airport are assessed separately. The Commission should undertake work to carry out a joint assessment. That will give a truer picture of the actual noise experienced in parts of east and south-east London.
- Night noise - Aviation noise from night flights is the biggest cause for concern and whichever option is recommended by the Airports Commission should include an operational ban on night flights between 23:30 and 06:00.
- Operational measures to reduce noise - All methods for reducing the impact of aviation noise on local residents should be considered including new operational measures for take-off and landing, dispersed flight paths and operational bans on the noisiest planes.
- Respite from noise - Runway alternation provides a critical respite for local residents and must be maintained, with improved communication in emergency situations that require it to be broken. It would seem inevitable that, with three runways each getting a period of respite, the half day’s break from the noise many people in West London enjoy will be reduced. And it appears the Heathrow Hub proposal could double the number of flights for many on the northern flight path, with minimal respite.
- Noise compensation - Existing noise compensation schemes for residents living around Heathrow are woefully inadequate when compared to the best of what’s on offer internationally. Local residents should receive consistent noise compensation regardless of which UK airport they live near and the standards should be in line with international best practice. The costs of this noise mitigation should be factored into the assessment by the Airports Commission. Hounslow Council has estimated that a minimum of £200 million would be required in its borough alone to noise-proof homes and schools if a 3rd runway at Heathrow was implemented.
- Noise from roads - The impact of an increase in road noise must also be considered by the Commission.
- Risk of judicial reviews and inaction – With millions of people impacted by the noise from aircraft and the resultant traffic congestion and pollution if Heathrow is the recommended option, the likelihood of mass demonstrations and judicial reviews is high. The Heathrow Mega Rally in 2013 is just a taste of the number of people that would be motivated to protest. The risk is that any decision to develop at Heathrow is delayed by several years, if it happens at all, and we may well end up in the same position as we are today 20 years from now.
COST TO TAXPAYERS
- Safety risks - Increasing the number of aircraft flying over densely populated areas in increasingly busy air space around Heathrow and our capital is taking chances based on a past safety record. The crash of a 777 just inside the Heathrow boundary in January 2008 could have killed hundreds of people. A former Transport Secretary has already told the Commission, “we cannot beat the odds forever”. The Commission must not ignore this issue.
- Additional costs for taxpayers to bear - The Commission currently estimates that expansion at Heathrow would cost the taxpayer £5.7 billion for work to adapt the local transport infrastructure (vs just £787,000 at Gatwick). However, this sum, whilst significant in itself, fails to take into account the cost for additional social housing, schools, public facilities and maintaining local roads. These bills will also fall to UK taxpayers.
- The importance of competition - The break-up of the near-monopoly previously held by British Airports Authority (BAA) has already resulted in significant benefits to consumers, with lower fares and greater choice. Effectively reinstating this monopoly by expanding at Heathrow restricts competition once more and reduces the benefits to airline passengers.
- Point-to-point travel - The growth in the UK aviation market has been almost entirely down to the increase in low-cost, point-to-point airlines, such as those that operate at Gatwick. London is the destination of choice for many millions of business people and visitors. This is the UK’s area of competitive advantage and is where we should continue to focus. We should look to boosting the competitiveness, choice and connectivity of all London’s airports (and indeed our regional airports) so we can continue to increase the number of passengers who want to visit the UK. The global hub battle is one that we will struggle to win, given the geographical advantage, low landing charges and 24 hour operations that massive hub airports like Dubai can offer.
- EU air quality limits – EU limits for air pollution have to be met by 2020. Currently, the air quality near Heathrow is in breach of these limits on a daily basis. It is inconceivable that these limits could ever be met with the addition of 260,000 additional flights at Heathrow, not to mention the estimated 25 million extra road passenger journeys that an extra runway would bring.
- Carbon costs – The Commission must fully factor in the carbon costs when assigning the overall economic benefits of a new runway. A workable carbon trading or carbon-capped scheme will be required which will result in the economic benefits of a new runway being lower than currently predicted.
- Grid-lock in West London - The Airports Commission is worryingly complacent about the issue of surface access to an expanded Heathrow. There are already significant problems with traffic congestion and crumbling bridges on our main M4/A4 route into London from Heathrow. The prospect of an additional 25 million car journeys on this arterial route for the capital if Heathrow is expanded has the potential to cause complete grid-lock on our roads.
Risk of flooding - Many areas close to Heathrow have already suffered severe flooding. It would be irresponsible to recommend laying vast amounts of concrete in this area, regardless of any reports commissioned by Heathrow.
January 29, 2015