HACAN started life in the 1960s as KACAN, Kew Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise. Within 10 years the acronym altered and we became HACAN, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise.
Both organisations always recognised that Heathrow has a contribution to make to the national economy, and to the London’s local economy. We have never opposed Heathrow per se. Our aim has been to represent the concerns of the residents under the flight paths and around the airport.
HACAN became HACAN ClearSkies in 1999/2000 as aircraft noise became a serious problem for the first time in areas of London and the Thames Valley much further away from Heathrow. People are troubled by aircraft noise who live over 20 miles from the airport. There was a change in the way the aircraft were brought into land in 1996, bringing noise to these new areas. This was done in secret, without consultation or warning with the local councils or the local communities. Subsequently went back to just calling ourselves HACAN.
We believe that residents have been betrayed by successive governments.
In 1978, the Inspector at the Terminal 4 Public Inquiry recommended the go-ahead for the terminal, but with a strict limit on the number of flights. Within a short time of the terminal opening (in the late 1980s) that limit had ben ignored.
In the 1990s we fought the longest Public Enquiry in UK history – lasting nearly 4 years – against Terminal 5. In 2001, the Inspector recommended the go-ahead for Terminal 5, but with a limit of 480,000 flights per year. The Government accepted the limit, but within 9 months it had put out for consultation proposals for a 3rd runway which would have increased the annual number of flights to 655,000. Terminal 5 in due to be open in 2007.
HACAN has gone to the highest court in Europe over night flights.
In 2001 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg found in our favour, and against the Government. It agreed that night flights were an infringement of our human right to a good night’s sleep. But the Government appealed and the court upheld the appeal in July 2003.
HACAN ClearSkies now works with protest groups across the UK and all over Europe.
We are not in the business of ‘exporting our misery’ to somebody else. We believe that the only hope to bring a halt to the incessant pressure for expansion of Heathrow is a change of direction in European policy.. We argue that, if the substantial tax concessions the industry receives each year were phased out, Governments could manage demand.
Heathrow’s claims that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate for residents do not stack up, according to campaign group HACAN. It has compared Heathrow’s arguments with the findings of two recently-published reports and concludes that “Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence.”
29 June 2014
Heathrow’s claim that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate seems to defy common-sense. It certainly leaves people at public meetings shaking their heads in disbelief. Is it true?
HACAN assessed Heathrow noise claims against two recent independent reports.
1. The CAA published Managing Aviation Noise – Download the pdf.
2. The Mayor of London published the Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Study – Download the pdf. Its noise assessment was based on work commissioned by Atkins on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) from The Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) of the CAA to calculate noise exposure contours for a series of scenarios that were developed by Atkins, and that relate to Heathrow Airport. Download the pdf.
On the basis of this we have awarded each Heathrow claim a reality check star: five stars if it has a real ring of truth about it to one star if it is hardly believable.
- Quieter planes
- Quieter operating procedures
- The location of the new runway
- Periods of relief from noise
- Noise insulation schemes
In short, Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of independent evidence.
1. Quieter planes
Heathrow: 90% of aircraft at Heathrow will be ‘next generation’ technology like the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 by the time the new runway opens.
CAA: The CAA acknowledges aircraft will become quieter but is less confident than Heathrow about how quickly the quieter planes will be introduced. Its report says: “Introducing new aircraft types is a slow and typically cyclical process that can be fraught with delays and issues, as recent experience with the introduction of both Airbus and Boeing’s new models, the A380 and 787, has shown. Even when new aircraft types are available, refleeting [converting the whole fleet to quieter planes] is a lengthy and expensive process for airlines, with significant resource impacts.” It goes on to point out that hundreds of the aircraft types would need to be removed by 2026 if Heathrow Airport were to meet its target: “in early 2014, British Airways’ long-haul fleet consisted of 55 Boeing 747-400s, 21 Boeing 767-300s and 55 Boeing 777s.” It could be 25 years before some of these planes were replaced.
Atkins (for the Mayor of London): Atkins is even more doubtful than the CAA that the fleet mix will be as Heathrow Airport predicts by 2026 when a 3rd runway opens. It cites as evidence the fact that: “IAG (BA and Iberia) are still placing orders for conventional A320’s [one of the aircraft types that would need to be phased out].” It is also sceptical the new aircraft would be significantly quieter than the existing ones: “An older Boeing 747-400 has an Lmax (peak noise event impact) when arriving at 1,000 ft of 86dB. An Airbus A380 has an Lmax arriving at 1,000 ft of 85dB. This represents a relatively insignificant difference, despite the A380’s much heralded status as a quieter aircraft.”
Verdict: There is real doubt Heathrow can defend its prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026 will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft.
There is also doubt that these quieter aircraft, when introduced, will cut noise for residents as much as Heathrow claims. The Atkins report says the difference will be ‘relatively insignificant’.
2. Quieter Operating Procedures
Heathrow: A mixture of steeper landing approaches, displaced landing thresholds (where aircraft touch down 700 metres further along the runway) and new flights paths brought in to avoid the most populated areas will cut noise levels.
CAA: The CAA stresses that only a marginally steeper approach – 3.25 degrees rather than the current 3 degrees – is possible, and that even 3.25 might cause problems in low-visibility. At Frankfurt 3.2 degrees is used but it reverts to 3 degrees at times of poor visibility. Although a steeper descent approach would mean planes remain higher for longer, it concludes “the additional benefits of 3.2 degree approaches are relatively small.” The CAA acknowledges that there would be noise benefits to displaced landing thresholds.
Atkins: The Atkins Report doesn’t analyse the feasibility of a steeper approach, nor does it comment on the impact of displaced landing thresholds; it simply assumed both will be in place when it made its calculations of the total number of people likely to be impacted by a 3rd runway would be over 1 million.
Neither the CAA nor Atkins assesses Heathrow’s claims the “new flight paths will avoid the most populated areas.” Partly this is because Heathrow has not yet published these new flight paths but probably also due to the recognition that altering flight paths will have a minimal overall impact since all of London is so heavily populated. Moreover, as Atkins points out London’s overall population is likely to have increased significantly by 2026.
Verdict: Steeper approach paths might reduce noise but the impact would be “relatively small”. There would be benefits from displaced landing thresholds (aircraft touching down further along the runway). Given the density of the London population – and the fact that the number of people living in London is expected to increase – it will be difficult to find “less populated” areas over which flight paths could be routed.
3. The location of the new runway
Heathrow: “Our proposal sites a third runway one nautical mile (1.1 miles) further to the west than the previous proposal for a short third runway. Every mile further west an aircraft lands means it is flying approximately 300 ft higher over London on its landing approach.
Verdict: It is clear that this proposal would reduce the noise over West London a little. It would not, in itself, benefit areas to the west of Heathrow. This, though, would be mitigated by the fact aircraft would be landing further along the runway.
4. Periods of relief from the noise
Heathrow: “We have maintained the principle of runway alternation. This provides periods of respite from noise for all communities around Heathrow.” It will also guarantee “periods without over-flights for every community.” Heathrow argues that a 3rd runway would provide additional respite at night for residents under the current flight paths as they would only get night flights one week in every three.
Atkins: Atkins questions how long these respite periods will be: “One of the few aspects of the current noise regime at Heathrow that affords local residents any relief from aircraft noise are the periods of respite that are secured by operating the airport in ‘segregated alternate mode’. With one runway used for departures and the other for arrivals before being switched round at 3pm, this gives local residents half a day without aircraft overhead. However, Heathrow Airport have made clear that their three runway proposals would require at least one runway to operate in mixed mode at all times. For the majority of affected residents, that will mean just 4½ hours of respite a day within operating hours – half the respite offered to local communities today.” Additionally, with the new flight path being close to the existing northern flight path it is probable that many people will be impacted by noise from both runways, thus making the period of real respite even shorter.
CAA: The report doesn’t look at respite specifically but does point out that “anti-noise groups report complaints about aircraft noise (especially early morning or late evening noise) as much as 20 miles from the airport”. It is not at all clear just how far Heathrow intends to, or is able to, extend its respite periods.
Verdict: There is no doubt Heathrow recognizes the value of respite and is trying to ensure all communities have some respite but it is clear that people in West London, who currently enjoy a half day’s break from the noise, will see that cut to a third and it is unclear whether communities further from the airport will enjoy respite periods. In fact, with the increased number of planes to be accommodated, it is possible that most communities will enjoy less respite than they currently do. Heathrow has a lot more to do to convince on respite.
5. Noise Insulation
Heathrow: “£550 million will be allocated to noise insulation or compensation.” Of that, £250 million will go towards noise insulation schemes for people under the flight paths. For people whose homes will be demolished it is committed to offering 25% above the unblighted market value of the property plus legal fees and stamp duty paid on a new home.
CAA: The report found that in France, there is a statutory scheme to insulate all housing within the 55 dB Lden contour…….. funded through a noise tax on each departure, introduced on the 1st January 2005.
Verdict: The Heathrow scheme is not ungenerous but the problem Heathrow will always face is the sheer numbers of people under its flight paths. It would cost Heathrow billions to match the Paris scheme of compensating everybody within the 55Lden contour. It would never be possible. The vast majority of those under the flight paths will remain uncompensated.
There is no doubt Heathrow understands the need to deliver on noise. However, these two new independent reports underscore the task Heathrow faces to improve the noise climate and suggest that it cannot deliver. In fact, Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence. And Heathrow continues to skirt round what is the biggest problem for most residents: the increased number of aircraft. The last study into noise annoyance was carried out in the 1980s. Flight numbers have more than doubled since then. The CAA is clear that it would “support the need for a new aviation noise attitude survey.” Surely that should be the starting point.
This short report was compiled by John Stewart for HACAN.
We can be contacted at:
tel 020 7737 664
- Not “a choice between more flights or less noise. Heathrow can deliver both.”
- A third runway will mean “at least 30% noise reduction” by 2030
- The number of people inside the 55Lden contour will fall by 48%. (55Lden contour is where the EU says noise becomes a problem).
The Counter Claims
- A report for the London Mayor revealed Heathrow’s claims are based on the assumption the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity.
- At full capacity, over 1,000,000 people will be impacted by noise, up from 725,000 today.
29/6/14 for immediate use
Heathrow’s claims that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate for residents do not stack up, according to campaign group HACAN (1). It has compared Heathrow’s arguments with the findings of two recently-published reports and concludes that “Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence.”
HACAN tested Heathrow’s evidence against the arguments put forward by the Civil Aviation Authority (2) in its new report on noise and the findings of a report from the consultancy firm Atkins carried out for the Mayor of London (3). The most damming indictment of Heathrow came from the Atkins report which showed the airport’s claim that a third runway will mean “at least 30% noise reduction” by 2030 is based on the assumption that the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity. At full capacity, Akins shows, over one million people will be impacted, up from 725,000 today.
Both reports challenge Heathrow’s prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026, when any new runway is expected to open, will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft. And they are dismissive that the proposed steeper landing approaches Heathrow wants to introduce will have any significant impact on noise levels.
Atkins verdict on Heathrow’s plans to increase respite for residents is damming. It argues that most communities will get less respite than they do today if a third runway is built. At present people in West London enjoy a half day’s break from the noise when planes switch runways at 3pm. This would be cut to a third if a new runway is built in order to give people under the new flight paths some respite.
HACAN chair John Stewart said, “We used the new reports to reality check Heathrow’s claims. The Airport came out badly. Most of its claims do not have a ring of truth about them. We could only award them 2 out of 5 on our reality score card.”
Stewart added: “Heathrow understands the need to deliver on noise. It is the biggest political barrier to a third runway. And its new proposals are an improvement on what went before but these two new independent reports illustrate the near-impossibility of sorting out noise at Heathrow.”
Notes for Editors:
(1). HACAN Briefing attached
(2). The CAA published Managing Aviation Noise. Read here.
(3). The Mayor of London published the Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Study. Its noise assessment was based on work commissioned by Atkins on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) from The Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) of the CAA to calculate noise exposure contours for a series of scenarios that were developed by Atkins, and that relate to Heathrow Airport. Read TfL report.
For further information:
John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650
21/4/14 for immediate use
Heathrow Airport’s outgoing chief executive Colin Matthews has admitted that the M4 would need to be diesel-free if a 3rd runway was ever built at the airport. Matthews told the aviation specialists Flightglobal (1), that “to fix air quality at Heathrow [you need to] replace the fleet of diesel engines coming down the M4 [motorway]”. It is the first time that a senior Heathrow official has been so frank about the air pollution problems the airport is facing.
The European Union has made clear that its air pollution legal limits set in 2010 must be complied with by 2020 or member states face hefty fines. In the UK, Central London and Heathrow are the two big areas of concern. There are pockets around Heathrow which remain stubbornly above the legal limits. The problem is caused by both the aircraft and the heavy traffic on the nearby roads and motorways.
John Stewart, chair of the campaign group HACAN, which opposes expansion of the airport, said, “We commend Colin Matthews on his honesty but it simply act of faith for the airport to believe that air pollution limits will be within the legal limits by 2026, the date a 3rd runway would be expected to open, as the new runway would mean an extra 240,000 flights a year.”
The Airports Commission, set up by the Government, is currently assessing the case for a 3rd runway at Heathrow and a second Gatwick runway. It will report in summer 2015
Notes for Editors:
(1). HYPERLINK “http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/analysis-what-new-london-capacity-means-for-green-goals-397467/” http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/analysis-what-new-london-capacity-means-for-green-goals-397467/ (published 17/4/14)
For further information:
John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957386650
5/5/14 for immediate use
Figures unearthed by campaign group HACAN caste doubt on the claims by Heathrow Airport that support for a third runway is growing amongst local residents. Last week Heathrow claimed that there was more support now for a third runway than when it was proposed by the last Labour Government. It cited a recent opinion poll of more than 1,000 local residents carried by Populus which showed 48% are in favour of a third runway while 34% oppose it (1).
However, HACAN dug out a similar Populus poll carried out in 2007 which revealed very similar results: 50% of people supported a 3rd runway and 30% were against (2).
HACAN Chair John Stewart said, “Heathrow Airport must be concerned that after more than a year of concerted, expensive and high-profile campaigning support for a third runway is little different than it was at the height of the protest six or seven years ago. There has been no UKIP-style surge in support for a 3rd runway.”
Populus have carried out three polls on behalf of Heathrow Airport over the last year. All are showing that about a third of residents consistently refuse to back expansion at Heathrow (3).
Referenda and surveys that were carried out last year by Hillingdon, Richmond and Hounslow showed even less support for expansion. Around 72% of residents opposed a 3rd runway (4).
Notes for editors:
For more information: John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650
15/5/14 for immediate use
Heathrow Airport has been accused of cynically underestimating the number of houses that would need to be demolished to make way for a third runway. Campaign group HACAN, which opposes expansion of the airport, has said that the detailed maps which Heathrow released yesterday (1) show that hundreds of homes on the just outside the boundary of the new runway would be uninhabitable if it went ahead. HACAN also questions whether the Grade 1 listed Harmondsworth Great Barn will, in reality, remain standing if expansion took place.
The maps show that hundreds of homes in Sipson would be within yards of the new runway (2) and that Hamondsworth Great Barn and the Grade 2 listed St Mary’s Church beside it would very close to the airport (3).
HACAN Chair John Stewart said: “We believe that Heathrow have cynically underestimated the number of homes that would need to go and are misleading people. Sipson would be uninhabitable and the Great Barn would be so close to the runway that it could serve as a canteen for the cabin crew to get a final coffee before boarding their plane.”
Heathrow Airport, when unveiling it plans on Tuesday, claimed that, because it has slightly altered the alignment of the new runway, it had cut the number of homes that would be demolished from 950 to 750. Their details plans suggest it could be many more.
Notes for Editors:
(2) The homes in Sipson are those just outside the red line which is the airport boundary.
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(3) The Barn is marked in green
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For further information:
John Stewart on 0207 737 6641
Jane Taylor, Chair Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents Association, 07990705470
25/5/14 for immediate use
New figures published by the London Mayor ‘blow out of the water’ Heathrow Airport’s oft-repeated claim that overall noise levels will fall if a third runway is built. They show that Heathrow’s claims assume the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity. They also argue that Heathrow is also over-optimistic about the introduction of quieter aircraft. The Mayor’s figures, based on a study he commissioned from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), show that, if a third runway is built, over a million people will be impacted by noise, up from 725,000 today.
The new figures are part of a report on the Estuary Airport the Mayor submitted to the Airports Commission on Friday (1). It shows that 31,500 people would be impacted by noise from an Estuary Airport operating over a million flights a year compared with the 725,000 people currently affected by a two-runway Heathrow, with around 470,000 flights each year. It is estimated a two-runway Gatwick with around half the flights of an Estuary Airport, would impact around 15,000 people.
HACAN Chair John Stewart said, “These new figures from the Civil Aviation Authority blow out of the water Heathrow’s claims that a 3rd runway can cut noise levels. They could be a game-changer as they show that Heathrow still has not found a way to deal with the politically toxic problem of noise.”
The CAA study shows that, if a third runway was built at Heathrow, people would be disturbed in new areas of London and the South East.
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The Airports Commission, set up by the Government in 2012, to assess options for airport expansion is currently looking at the merits of building a third runway at Heathrow, a second runway at Gatwick, or an Estuary Airport on the Isle of Grain in Kent. It is expected to consult on its proposals later this year before publishing its final report two months after the 2015 General Election.
Notes for Editors:
For further information: John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650