Third Runway Could Mean More Night Flights

New report undermines Government promise that night flights might be banned says four councils

images: Wandsworth Council

Government assurances that night flights could be banned with a third runway have been undermined by a new report from a major airline group making the case for additional flights in the early morning period.

In its submission to the Transport Select Committee, IAG, which is the parent company of British Airways, said that the Government’s national policy statement on aviation (NPS) should focus on providing ‘extended periods of predictable respite from scheduled night flights rather than a prescriptive ban for an arbitrary number of hours’.

BA operates 11 of the 16 flights which arrive at Heathrow in the night time period between 11.30pm and 6am.

The Airports Commission recommended that all flights in the night time period should be banned as a condition of the third runway going ahead.

The Government’s draft NPS published in February 2017 watered down this recommendation and proposed a ban of six and a half hours with the exact times to be determined following consultation together with a ‘predictable, though reduced, period of respite for local communities’.

The IAG submission also argued that a curfew would make it harder to add new flights from certain time zones.

Local authorities opposed to expansion at Heathrow say that in pressing for more night flights the airline had demonstrated the feebleness of the Government’s position.

Wandsworth council leader Ravi Govindia, pictured above, said: “The pressure from the airlines shows once again that the industry is not prepared to share the benefits of expansion with the communities affected at an airport which is responsible for more noise than all the major European hubs put together.

“We can expect further challenges to all the essential mitigation that the Airports Commission said must accompany an expanded Heathrow. It shows that whatever the Transport Secretary may say a third runway cannot be delivered without bringing extra noise for local communities.”

Cllr Paul Hodgins, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “The Government’s NPS as currently drafted provides no guarantee that a meaningful night ban will be introduced. Once the detailed planning process begins we can expect the current conditions to be whittled away. This is yet another example of why the Government should be looking at Gatwick Airport rather than expanding Heathrow.”

Councillor Ray Puddifoot, Leader of Hillingdon Council, added: “No Government promise to ban or even reduce the number of early morning arrivals is worth the paper it is written on. Unless the airlines agree there is nothing ministers can do.”

Councillor Simon Dudley, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “BA has shown that rather than accepting any restriction they actually want more night flights. There is simply no form of ‘respite’ that is going to protect residents from the extra sleep disruption this is bound to cause.”

The Chancellor Philip Hammond was reported in April 2017 as saying that many of his Cabinet colleagues made the decision to support the third runway on the basis that (they) accepted the Airports Commission’s recommendations for mitigation.

The IAG submission is published on the Transport Select Committee website.

The local authority group which comprises Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils will be giving evidence to the transport Select Committee today (Monday).

January 15, 2018