Council Leaders Challenge Heathrow Claims

2M Group question noise, air quality and economic claims at a public hearing

The leaders of Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth, Hounslow and Windsor and Maidenhead took part in the session at Park Inn, Heathrow Airport today (3rd December).

Wandsworth’s Ravi Govindia asked why a night flight ban couldn’t be delivered at the airport. Heathrow bosses said night flights were “important commercially”.

Govindia warned the Airports Commission that it places too much faith in computer models which “defy common sense” by suggesting noise impacts fall while the number of flights goes up by 200,000 a year.

Cllr Govindia pressed the airport owners on whether their new noise respite proposal, which involve planes arriving along several different curved flightpaths, was actually within their power to deliver. The airport admitted the system was dependant on weather conditions and operational issues, so would not be in operation all of the time. The airport’s current respite plan works around 50 per cent of the time for the same reasons.

Govindia asked why Heathrow could not offer the same noise compensation package offer at Paris Charles de Gaul airport. In response Heathrow admitted that their current noise mitigation offer “isn't enough” and said new proposals would come out next year. It is not clear if this will be after the Airports Commission consultation is over.

Govindia told the hearing that a new rail route to Heathrow from south London is needed now to cope with the airport’s existing transport deficiencies. It is not dependant on expansion.

Cllr Govindia said: “All of the Heathrow expansion plans include noise respite systems which are beyond the airport’s ability to control and deliver. That was absolutely clear from today’s hearing.

“We are deeply concerned that the Commission continues to use computer modelling alone to assess noise impacts. These models claim that Heathrow has become ‘quieter’ despite the number of flights over London and the Home Counties increasing. This is clearly wrong. On the ground you cannot tell the difference between new generation planes and last generation planes – the CAA confirms this. The only difference people are aware of is that there are more of them flying overhead.

“All of the expansion proposals will make the noise impacts of Heathrow much worse and our residents hold these ‘noise contours’ in utter distain. More planes means more noise. That is the simple truth the Commission should accept.”

The other 2M council leaders questioned the Commission and the airport expansion promoter on air quality, surface access, the destruction of local communities and the authenticity of the airport sponsored Back Heathrow campaign.

The 2M Group is an all-party alliance of local authorities concerned about the environmental impact of Heathrow operations on their communities. Members of the group include councils surrounding Heathrow and under its flightpaths.

December 4, 2014