There are at least 6 reasons to oppose a 3rd runway at Heathrow

Here they are (in no particular order):

1. 725,000 live under the Heathrow flightpaths. (click on table to enlarge)

Numbers under Heathrow's flight paths

eathrow2. It is not essential for London economy: read why 

3. London is Europe’s most overflown city: compare plane landing at Barcelona 

4. Heathrow the only major UK airport where air pollution levels in a few areas remain stubbornly above EU legal limits

5. M25 between junctions 14 and 15 (Heathrow to the M4) the busiest motorway in UK. …

6. At least 750 homes would be demolished. Lives disturbed and communities destroyed.

Third Runway at Heathrow not essential to London’s economy


by John Stewart

On the face of it, it may seem odd to cite the economy as a reason why Heathrow does not need a third runway.  After all, many in business back a third runway.  And it is the main reason Heathrow Airport gives for promoting one.

Let’s acknowledge up front that a 3rd runway would bring economic benefits.  And that it would improve connections for business to key markets in the world’s emerging economies – places like China, India and Brazil.

 But that is very different to saying that a 3rd runway is essential to London’s economy.  There is clear evidence it is not. 

Only today, the influential Forbes international survey named London as the top city in the world for business – without a third runway. It is worth reading what, Joel Kotkin, the author of the Forbes report wrote: “London is not only the historic capital of the English language, which contributes to its status as a powerful media hub and major advertising centre, but it’s also the birthplace of the cultural, legal and business practices that define global capitalism. The city has upward of 3,000 tech startups, as well as Google’s largest office outsideSilicon Valley. Compared to New York, it is also time-zone advantaged for doing business in Asia, and has the second best global air connections of any city after Dubai, with non-stop flights at least three times a week to 89 per cent of global cities outside of its home region of Europe.”

The Forbes survey gives added weight to what a number of commentators have been saying for some time.  To meet current growth projections London and the South East may need a new runway by 2030 but it need not be at Heathrow.

The main reason the London economy doesn’t depend on Heathrow expanding is this:  more passengers (business people and tourists) terminate in London than in any other city in the world.  On the whole, they do not mind which London airport they use.

Heathrow must be looked at in the context of all London’s airports. London has six airports and seven runways.  London has more runways than any of its European rivals, except Paris: Paris is served by 3 airports and 8 runways; Amsterdam by 1 airport and 6 runways; Frankfurt by 2 airports and 5 runways; and Madrid by 1 airport and 4 runways.

As the Forbes survey so clearly indicated,London is the hub.  The vitality of London is what draws business people and tourists in world-beating numbers.  Because London is the magnet, Heathrow does not need to expand as a hub* in order to enable more transfer passengers to provide sufficient numbers of people to fill flights to destinations across the world that would not otherwise be commercially viable.

 If airport capacity is provided – at whatever airport – people will flock to the capital in even larger numbers, drawn by the magnetic pull of London. A third runway at Heathrow may boost the coffers of Heathrow Airport’s foreign owners.  It is not, though, essential for the health of London economy.

*  a hub airport is one where passengers can change planes – for example, because there are few direct flights from Copenhagen to New York, many people from Copenhagen will fly to Heathrow and then transfer on to a New York flight.





Populus, Heathrow’s favourite pollster, are in trouble over their methods


By John Stewart

 Populus, Heathrow’s favourite pollster, are in trouble.  Their questionable methods have been exposed in a poll they did for the fracking industry. Thie poll published on Monday, carried out for UK Onshore Oil and Gas, was described by a polling expert as ‘one of the most misleading poll findings I’ve ever seen’.

And today the pressure on Populus has increased with the publication of a Government-funded survey which shows markedly different results to the Populus poll.  The Government survey found  that only 25% of people supported fracking compared to the Populus poll which claimed 57% support.

The headline in today’s Times gets to the heart of it: Public back fracking . . . depending on how you ask the question …  Ben Webster, the Times environment editor, puts it like this in his article: “The questions about fracking in the two surveys were posed in very different ways. The survey commissioned byUK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) asked several questions aboutBritain’s need for investment and greater energy security before the key question on fracking.  The question included a long preamble explaining the “tiny fractures” involved and how shale gas could “heat theUK’s homes for over 100 years”.  The energy department survey included a brief explanation of fracking as “a process of pumping water at high pressure into shale”,then asked people to state their level of support for it”.

 Polling expert Leo Barasi wrote in Noise of the Crowd  about the Populus poll: “Short of faking results or fiddling the weights or sample (which this poll doesn’t), there are two ways to get a poll to give the answers you want. You can ask a series of leading questions that get respondents thinking the way you want them to, then ask the question you’re really interested in. Or you can word the questions so respondents only see half the argument. This poll does both”.

Barasi says: “This isn’t an attempt to find out what the public think about fracking. It’s message testing. That’s what political candidates or businesses do before launching a campaign. They fire a load of messages at respondents to see how much support they could gain in a theoretical world where only their view is heard, and which arguments are most effective. It’s a useful technique for finding out how people might respond to your arguments.  But it’s not supposed to represent what people actually think now”.

The criticism of Populus has important implications for Heathrow.  The airport has consistent commissioned polls from Populus in an attempt to show support for a third runway is growing.

In May 2014 Heathrow Airport claimed, on the basis of a Populus poll,  that there was more support now for a 3rd runway than when it was proposed by the last Labour Government.  The poll claimed to show 48% were in favour of a third runway while 34% opposed.

In an uncanny parallel with the fracking results, these Populus results were flatly contradicted by referenda and surveys carried out by Hillingdon, Richmond and Hounslow local authorities which found around 72% of residents opposed a 3rd runway:

All the polls done by Populus for Heathrow must now be regarded with suspicion.  In December last year Heathrow claimed “people inWest London are more likely to vote for their MP if they support Heathrow expansion than if they oppose a third runway according to new research from independent polling company Populus”. .  This is in flat contradiction to what MPs are telling us they are hearing on the doorstep and reading in their mail.

Heathrow need now to publish not just the questions Populus are asking people but also the ‘spiel’ leading up to the questions.  Unless they can convince us all that they are not leading people to their chosen answer, their results can only be regarded as fiction rather than fact… be filed alongside this entertaining incident from Yes Minister 

Gatwick leaked strategy more embarrassing for Heathrow

11th August 2014

blog by John Stewart

I was clearly travelling on the wrong train.  When I was on the Eurostar a good piece by Mark Hookham in the Sunday Times revealed that a dossier outlining Gatwick’s secret lobbying strategy had been left on a train. …

Somewhat embarrassing for Gatwick but I suspect more concerning for Heathrow.  What will worry Heathrow is the revelation of yet another study challenging its claims that the number of people disturbed by noise around the airport will fall after a third runway is built.  Heathrow claims the number of people “significantly annoyed” by aircraft noise would drop from the current 237,350 to between 187,000 and 202,900, even with an additional runway, thanks to quieter aircraft and steeper landing approaches.

According to the dossier, the Gatwick-commissioned report shows the number of people affected by noise at Heathrow would actually increase by 20,650 to 258,000 once the runway was at its full capacity.  It further says the figure does not take into account the expected fall in the number of people exposed to noise in future years if Heathrow remained a two-runway airport. Once this is included, it claims, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) modelling shows around 101,000 extra people would actually be affected by the noise of an expanded Heathrow.

This comes on top of a study released by the London Mayor’s office earlier this year which showed that, at full capacity, over one million people will be impacted by a 3 runway Heathrow, from 725,000 today.

What’s rather confusing is that Gatwick, Heathrow and the Mayor all claim their figures are based on work carried out by the CAA.  And they are all correct!  The CAA tried to defend its role to the Sunday Times: “Different results occur depending on the traffic forecasts, aircraft types and the routes they fly and population densities provided to us.”  In other words, the CAA pretty uncritically feeds the data given to it into its noise model.

Of course Gatwick, Heathrow and the Mayor are all trying to influence Howard Davies and the Airports Commission.  In its Interim Report, published at the end of last year, Davies appeared to accept many of Heathrow’s noise figures.  Now those figures are being challenged by study after study.  Will Sir Howard now be tempted to send his team on railway holidays across the UK this August?







Compensation comes at a high cost for Heathrow


By John Stewart

HACAN gets a constant stream of emails from people throughout the year but rarely have we been deluged with so many angry emails as we have had over the consultation on compensation launched by Heathrow last week.

Here’s a pretty typical email: 

Dear Hacan

I have just received this leaflet from Heathrow which you are probably aware about.  What I would really like to do is grab it, shove it up their arses, bang their heads together and scream ” No I don’t want another f***ing runway” !

What is hacan’s view of this? Should we be going to these sham meetings and be telling Heathrow what we think or should they be picketed?

Any other ideas?

What has sparked the fury is the feeling people are being steamrollered into accepting the fact that a third runway is inevitable at a time when the Government has made no decision on the future of Heathrow.  They are simply not prepared to discuss compensation arising from a third runway they simply don’t want.

It is a fury that is barely suppressed at the best of times.  For many residents Heathrow is still associated with BAA’s broken promises:  terminal 4 will be the last major development; terminal 5 will not lead to a 3rd runway etc. etc.  The current management at Heathrow is painfully aware of that legacy and I believe is making real attempts to adopt a more open approach.  But past broken promises are still in the forefront of many residents’ minds, particularly those who bought their properties believing them to be true.

This consultation on compensation is not breaking any promises but is putting the cart of compensation to before the horse: whether the Government will come down in favour of a third runway.  That decision is at least a year away.

For people whose homes would be demolished Heathrow is offering much more generous terms than it is required to do so by law.  It is offering the price of the property (pre-blight), plus 25% plus stamp duty, plus removal costs.

But Heathrow is always going to struggle to offer adequate compensation to all residents under the flight paths, simply because there are so many of them.  It cannot match the Charles de Gaulle scheme where everybody within the 55 Lden contour (the area where the EU considers noise can be a problem) some form of compensation of mitigation.   (The CAA: Managing Aviation Noise -  Page 50: “In France, there is a statutory scheme to insulate all housing within the 55 dB Lden contour”.)  At Heathrow, that would mean offering at least 725,000 people something.

Equally to match Gatwick’s compensation offer would cost Heathrow billions.  At the end of last week Gatwick spelt out what it is offering residents:

The third runway comes at a high price for residents and the wider environment.  It may turn out also be to be too costly for Heathrow in terms of it being able to provide adequate compensation. 

Heathrow Airport – a chance to become history makers?


By John Stewart

Speculation about new runways and new airports will continue to dominate the headlines over the next couple of years.   But what the aviation industry decides to do about flight paths may have the bigger impact on people’s quality of life.

The UK is facing the biggest changes to its flight paths in half a century.  The same thing is happening across Europe and America.  It is being driven by new technology.  The technology now exists to guide planes much more precisely when they are landing and taking off.  The industry sees this as a chance to make more efficient use of airspace, enable more planes to use its airports and reduce the fuel burn and emissions from each aircraft.

For residents on the ground the all-important question is whether the new technology is used to concentrate flight paths over particular communities or share the noise over a wider area. America appears to be going for concentration, generating significant protests in places likeChicago andNew York.

My own view is that concentration, certainly at big urban airports, is deeply inequitable.  At somewhere like Heathrow or Frankfurt it potentially means non-stop flying, with a plane thundering over every 90 seconds throughout the day.

All the evidence shows that, when asked, communities prefer sharing the pain rather than concentration.  That was the view ofSydney residents after their controversial third runway opened.  And it is also what is emerging from research whichHeathrowAirport is carrying out.

It is becoming clear that Heathrow is coming down on the side of sharing rather than concentration.  Last week it published detailed plans of how it believes it can cut noise overall even if a third runway is built:  HACAN has made it clear that we doubt that is achievable.  But where we are at one with Heathrow is in our embrace of respite for residents.

The maps Heathrow published last week give many residents the first glimmer of hope they have had for nearly 20 years that the incessant noise they are experiencing may ease.   The maps show that the aircraft could use perhaps as many as four or six different flight paths before joining their final approach in the Richmond/Brentford area (considerably closer to the airport than they do at present).  Thus concentration would only take place during the last few miles as planes are lined up with the airport but these areas would continue to enjoy some respite as the aircraft would continue to switch the runways they land on during the course of the day.   There are similar dispersal maps for departures.

Of course, for Heathrow the new flight path options are part of its plans to be seen to tackle the toxic question of noise in its attempt to get a third runway.  But, Heathrow admits, its flight path ideas are not dependent on a new runway being built.  They could be implemented with a 2-runway airport.

Over the years HACAN has commissioned surveys which show places like the Oval or Kennington, almost 20 miles from Heathrow, can get more than 40 planes an hour.  This is quite simply not fair on the residents.  There are only three ways to ease their burden: to reduce the overall number of aircraft using Heathrow (highly unlikely), close Heathrow by building Boris Island or expanding Stansted (not an option that provides short-term relief) or sharing the noise burden more equitably.

The aviation industry, in looking at its flight paths, has an historic opportunity to avoid the inequity caused by traffic noise.  In my book, Why Noise Matters, I wrote that “traffic noise these days is largely a main road problem.”  This is because “the policy in theUK, and in many other European countries, has been to direct traffic away from the so-called ‘residential’ roads on to the ‘main’ roads”.  Concentration has become the norm.  Inequity has become embedded.

Heathrow Airport Ltd has the chance to become history-makers.  It looks as if it may be ready to seize that chance. 

Davies rejects unconstrained flying; wants 1 new runway but not necessarily an expanded hub


by John Stewart

How times change.  Ten years ago the Labour Government was planning four or five new runways across the UK plus full use of existing runways at all the country’s airports.  It proposed a third runway at Heathrow, a second runway at Stansted or Gatwick, plus a second runway at Birmingham and at least one new runway inScotland.

This morning Sir Howard Davies told an excellent session of the London Assembly that he envisaged just one new runway by 2030, with the possibility of a second one by 2050.   Moreover, he made clear that any new runway would only comply with the Government’s climate change commitments if it was accompanied by an increase in the cost of flying or some other form of intervention to manage demand across theUK.

Davies said that a recommendation for a new runway did “not imply a significant increase in flying.”  His view is that, while there is an economic argument for a new runway in London and the South East, the overall increase in flight numbers across the country would need to be limited to the 55% increase that the Committee on Climate Change, the Government’s official advisers, argues is compatible with the UK’s climate commitment.

Davies is saying let Britain fly but within limits.  He said “unconstrained demand would exceed any plausible amount of emissions that are legislated for” and made it clear that some in the debate had “not taken account of climate change.”

Davies’s focus will be on where a new runway should be.  He explicitly rejected the view that it should be taken for granted that an expandingLondon’s hub airport was necessarily the best economic solution for the capital.  He made clear that, in his view,London was more like New York(which has two smaller hub airports) rather than some of the European cities which rely on one big hub. Gatwick Airport will be pleased he acknowledged the strength of their argument that more passengers (business people and tourists) terminate in London than in any other city in the world.  Gatwick argue that this means that second runway at their airport could bring passengers into London as effectively as a third runway at Heathrow.

Davies wasn’t drawn on whether he favoured Heathrow, Gatwick or an Estuary Airport.  What he did make clear, though, that “there was no case for an infinitely expandable hub.”

The big message Davies would have got back from the Assembly was their big concerns about any expansion at Heathrow:  traffic congestion, air pollution and, above all, noise, noise, noise.  Assembly member Kit Malthouse suggested to Davies that planes should fly along the third runway flight path before any decision was taken to give people an idea what it would be like.  Davies doubted it was practicable but said it was an “intriguing” idea which he would “take away and look at”.  And we discovered that flight path would include Ravenscourt Park– home of one, Sir Howard Davies!

What Heathrow can do next following the PR coup of Question Time being held in Terminal 2…….


by John Stewart

Heathrow Airport must be delighted with last night’s Question Time.  Never mind the content.  Admire the view.  Set in a gleaming new Terminal 2.  We are the UK’s airport of the future.  The only possible location for a new runway.

It is all part of Heathrow’s new PR strategy.  The arguments haven’t changed since the Government dropped plans for a 3rd runway in 2010.  As Joey Barton said on Question Time last night: “we haven’t suddenly got silent planes.”  The economic and environmental arguments are much the same as four years ago.

What has changed is Heathrow’s PR.  Rocked by its failure to get a new runway last time round, the company regrouped, rethought its strategy and revitalised its PR.

  • It got a new name.  No longer the untrustworthy BAA who kept breaking its promises to residents….and sent all the luggage to Rome on the opening day of Terminal 5.
  • It has embraced of residents over the politically toxic issue of noise
  • It has engaged in early discussions with local authorities and MPs about the economic benefits of expansion
  • It has carefully commissioned polls to give the impression that there is more support for a third runway than previously thought
  • It set up of Back Heathrow to concentrate on the negative campaigning

No question Heathrow has upped its game since last time and setting the opponents of a 3rd runway a new challenge.

And then there are the adverts, the billboards and the TV programmes: Question Time last night and last year a week-long, gushing series from the BBC on the workings of the airport.

So it doesn’t lose momentum, here are some suggestions what Heathrow can do next:

  • John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s new CEO, guest edits the Today Programme
  • Heathrow sponsors the Manchestert rams for the duration of the Conservative Party Conference in return for free branding on the vehicles
  • · Heathrow pledges to pay for the restoration of the old pier in Brighton during Labour’s Conference – to be opened concurrently with a 3rd runway in 2026.
  • An offer that Terminal 6, if given the go-ahead, will host free of charge key cultural events such as the X Factor, with Piers Morgan, given his performance on Question Time last night, guaranteed a place on the judging panel

Just a few suggestions to help out!  And to emphasise that, for all the glitz and glamour of its PR, the basic arguments haven’t changed.  Arguments that were rejected last time round.  It is that rejection – and the desperation to succeed against the odds this time – that is driving Heathrow to be the accommodating host of Question Time.  It is a strategy conceived in defeat rather than one that is confident of victory. 

Heathrow still have a mountain to climb


blog by John Stewart

Heathrow still have a mountain to climb.  Today’s launch of their revised plan for a third runway shows they understand the need to pull out all the stops to make it politically deliverable.  But it also shows the extent of the task they face.

Their last attempt to get a new runway ended in failure:   Since then, they have changed their name and their tactics.

The new tactics were to the fore in today’s announcement.

There was a clear recognition that, unless there are enough “goodies” for voters living under the flight paths and around Heathrow, governments will continue to be reluctant to commit to a 3rd runway in case history repeats itself and they fail to deliver.

The climate impacts of a new runway are important – and the airport’s claims about CO2 need be assessed to see if they stand up – but it is the proposals to deal with noise and community destruction that most politicians will be interested in.

The offer to people in the 750 homes that Heathrow estimates will be demolished (down from 950 last time because the alignment of the new runway has been moved a little further south) is more generous than before:  the value of the house plus 25%; payment of relocation costs and any stamp duty.  It will be a tempting offer to many residents who have faced years of blight and uncertainty.  But what of those left behind yards from the new runway?    The immediate reaction we are getting is the Heathrow will need to do a lot more to quell local opposition to a third runway.  The quality of life in whole communities in places like Sipson, Harlington, Longford and West Drayton, as well as the village in the eye of the storm – Harmondsworth – will be changed forever.  With so much to lose, expect a big fight back.

The attempt to deal with noise for people living under the flight paths further afield is much more sophisticated than last time.  Quieter planes, improved operational practices and more respite periods are promised.  Runway alternation is guaranteed – long gone is any thought of all-day flying on any runway.  And there is an acknowledgement that aircraft noise is a problem outside the discredited 57 noise contour.  All this is welcome – and, indeed most of the proposals need not be dependent on a new runway – but could I convince our members in Hounslow, Ealing, Richmond, Windsor, Clapham, Brockley and Tower Hamlets that their noise climate will be less disturbing with a 3rd runway and its extra 260,000 flights a year?   They would tell me it would need a miracle.  And, so far, Heathrow have not proved they can deliver that miracle.

And then there’s Heathrow M25 problem.  Heathrow has said that 600 metres would go into a tunnel with a runway built over the top.  Possible in engineering terms but messy, disruptive and costly.  Any government would want to know how much it would be expected to cough up.

 Heathrow has tried to show it can deal with the air pollution and traffic problems around the airport through a mix of a congestion charge on cars using the airport and improved public transport links.  The proposals are proof that Heathrow is addressing these problems with a seriousness that was missing previously.  Only time will tell whether they have done enough to convince the Airports Commission and any future government to take a punt on a third runway.

 And all the time Gatwick – and also still Boris Island– are breathing down Heathrow’s neck.  Heathrow’s strongest argument has always been its economic case, principally the fact that, with a new runway, it could have direct links to around 40 more destinations (although all these destinations can already be reached with just one change).  However it still hasn’t been able to shake off the challenge of the other airports.

 Liverpool, with a new manager and a new style of play, fell just short of winning the League title this season.  Like Liverpool, Heathrow are adopting a much more creative approach.  Whether they can do enough to persuade politicians that a third runway is politically deliverable is still open to real doubt.  The top prize may remain out of reach.

Putting the Polls into Perspective

6th May 2014

Blog by John Stewart

 Last week HeathrowAirportclaimed that there was more support now for a 3rd runway than when it was proposed by the last Labour Government.  It cited a recent opinion poll of more than 1,000 local residents by Populus which showed 48% are in favour of a third runway while 34% oppose.

The reality is different.  HACAN unearthed a Populus poll which revealed that in 2007 50% supported a 3rd runway and 30% against were against.

 In fact, as we blogged last week, a third of people stubbornly refuse to back expansion at Heathrow.  Although some of the other figures fluctuate, the common thread in the Populus polls is the 30% or so of people who oppose expansion.  Here are the last three polls:

March 2014: and

Nov 2013:

May 2013:

 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.

And, indeed, the referenda and surveys that were carried out by Hillingdon, Richmond and Hounslow show even less support for expansion.  Around 72% of residents opposed a 3rd runway:

 There has been no UKIP-style surge in support for a 3rd runway.

 Heathrow have only one year in which to change this.  The airport will be acutely aware that they lost the battle for a 3rd runway last time around because the one the residents who opposed expansion in the 7 boroughs closest to the airport (over 525,000 people in total) were able to forge an effective alliance with residents further afield, environmentalists, politicians from across the political spectrum as well as some key business people and trade unions.

 Heathrow Airport will know that, unless they can shift opinion in the next year, the odds against a third runway being built will lengthen…….whatever recommendation the Airports Commission comes up with in summer 2015.