Hounslow To Fight ' Tooth And Nail' Over Airport

Council say it will oppose mixed mode use of runways

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Hounslow Council has vowed to fight tooth and nail against the introduction of ‘mixed mode’ at Heathrow Airport.

The pledge follows a report commissioned by the City of London Corporation and London First, which claims the introduction of mixed mode – the use of both Heathrow’s runways for simultaneous take-offs and landings - could boost the British economy by £206 million.

But the Council says the introduction of mixed mode, would destroy the precious “period of peace” which the current system of alternation provides (through using different run ways for take offs and landings at different points of the day, thus giving residents below a half-day’s respite from noise).

Cllr Colin Ellar, deputy leader of Hounslow Council and cabinet member for environment, said: “We will fight to the last to protect our residents from being subjected to more aircraft noise.  While Heathrow is very important to us economically, the introduction of mixed mode flies in the face of a better airport.” 

He added: “The overwhelming majority of our residents, some 80 per cent, are in favour of runway alternation which gives our residents some respite, but it would be lost if mixed mode is introduced.  

“The Airports Commission has said they will not introduce mixed mode and Heathrow has made the same commitment.”

This is what the Airports Commission has said about ‘mixed mode’.

  1. 5.109   Heathrow presently operates in segregated mode. Under this model, one runway is used for arrivals and the other for departures. Currently, on westerly operations, the runways alternate in the middle of the day, to allow for respite for people living under specific flight paths. While some of the measures recommended in this Chapter would allow for the tactical use of de-segregation in specific circumstances, the principle of segregation would remain.
  2. 5.110   Mixed mode operations would allow both runways to be used for arrivals or departures at the same time. This potentially allows for a significant increase in the number of scheduled flights at the airport above the current cap of 480,000 (certainly up to 520,000 ATMs and potentially as high as 540,000) – or alternatively, the increased operational flexibility could be used to enhance the resilience of the airport’s operations. However, this comes at a cost to people living around the airport. Mixed mode operations mean a loss of respite; aircraft noise could be present throughout the day, every day. The measure therefore attracts strong local opposition.
  3. 5.111   The Commission is not recommending the introduction of mixed mode operations at Heathrow as a short-term measure. There are three key factors behind this decision:

The noise impacts of mixed mode operation are severe, as it would mean an end to the respite periods currently granted to communities around the airport as a result of runway alternation.

  •  Removing the current planning limitation in place at Heathrow which caps its annual ATMs at 480,000 would require a planning inquiry. Even with a more streamlined planning process, the Commission believes that the planning inquiry could still take a considerable period of time and there is no guarantee of success. Even if the planning cap were not to be lifted and mixed mode operations were used only to enhance resilience, infrastructure and airspace changes would be required, with a consequent need for extensive consultation.
  •  The implementation of mixed mode operations would need to be driven by the airport’s owners, who have indicated they do not support this measure.124
  1. 5.112   Taken together, the above factors present a strong case that the implementation of mixed mode is neither quick nor easy and would inevitably come at a significant cost to local communities.
  2. 5.113   However, the Commission’s assessment of need has indicated that the aviation demand pressures in the London and South East system will continue to grow. Furthermore, the Commission has noted the range of possible delivery timescales associated with the long-term options under consideration. Should the delivery timescale for new runway capacity be towards the longer end of the anticipated spectrum, then the case for enabling mixed mode operations at Heathrow may be stronger.
  3. 5.114   Accordingly, while mixed mode operations do not form part of the Commission’s short-term recommendations, it is conceivable that this issue may become material as part of a transition strategy to the preferred longer-term option. It is therefore possible that the Commission may need to give some further thought to this issue within Phase 2 of the process. 


February 12, 2014