Category Archives: Information Library

Airports Commission Air Pollution Consultation

The Airports Commission has released a short consultation on air pollution, with  29th May deadline.  The consultation documents can be found on the Commission’s website:

This is a technical consultation assessing  future air pollution levels around Heathrow and Gatwick if new runways are built.

It is unlikely that this consultation was prompted by the recent Supreme Court ruling that required the Government to draw up plans by the end of the year on how it was going to meet the EU legal limits on air pollution (across the UK).  The Airports Commission, under Sir Howard Davies, always intended to do this work.

The legal limits came into force in 2010 under the terms of the EU Air Pollution Directive but the EU has not taken action against breaches of them because no member state has been able to meet the targets.  So the Commission is now asking member states to outline plans on how they intend to meet the targets but without having set a new date.

During the last consultation the Airports Commission carried out, it said it was going to do more work on air pollution, particularly on how pollution levels might disperse.  This is critical because the predictions were that by 2030 (when any new runway would be up and running) there might still be pockets around the airport that would be over the EU legal limits.  Dispersal could potentially spread the pollution more thinly so that no area remained above the limits.

The Airports Commission commissioned the consultancy firm, Jacobs, to do the work on dispersal.  Jacobs has found that by 2030 there will be a problem in small areas close to the Bath Road (very close to the airport) if no mitigation measures have been put in place.  The problem would be a little worse from the Heathrow Hub scheme that with the Heathrow Airport’s 3rd runway scheme.  But it expects the problem to be resolved within a few years.  Jacobs doesn’t appear to foresee a problem at Gatwick.

Jacobs then lists the mitigation schemes by Heathrow – things like encouraging airlines to shut down an engine during taxiing, the use of the extended runway to allow a proportion of the take-off emissions to be well away from the airport boundary and the introduction of congestion charging in the area.  But it doesn’t really analyse them.  Rather it tends to assumes that, with some mitigation, the levels will be below the EU legal limits in 2030.

There is one other point that it not addressed.  A new, if built, will not be running to capacity by 2030.  Jacobs doesn’t look at what air pollution levels will be when it is running to capacity.  It implies that with mitigation measures in place and, as aircraft become cleaner as the years go by, there should not be a problem.  But no detailed work has been done on this.

Community Noise Forum set up

Heathrow Airport has set up the Community Noise Forum.  It consists of representatives of the Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), National Air Traffic Control (NATS), British Airways, local authorities, community organizations and campaign groups.  It was set up following the complaints received during the recent trials carried out by Heathrow and NATS.  In particular, it was hoped it could resolve the dispute between Heathrow and the communities where the trials took place that flight paths have or have not returned to their pre-trial pattern.  It is the reason why these communities and local authorities – largely to the west of the airport – are at present the main participants.  Local authorities and community organizations to the east of the airport are expected to be invited to join at a later stage, though HACAN, as the overall body, is on the Forum and does represent residents in these areas.

 Its first task will be to commission an independent study to look at the flight paths before the recent trials took, during the trials and post-trials.  The aim is to see whether flight paths post-trial have gone back to their pre-trial routes.  Many in the communities impacted – places like Ascot, Teddington, Englefield Green, Lightwater, Binfield and Bracknell, claim they have not.  Heathrow Airport claims they have.  The independent study will also look into whether any other changes had taken place. The steering group which will draw up the brief for the study and which will oversee it will be drawn entirely from community representatives of the areas where the trials took place. Heathrow has offered technical assistance and will pay for the study. The steering group will meet soon. It will report back to the Community Noise Forum.

 NATS explained to the Forum the change they made to some flight paths in June 2014 without telling anybody. It transpires that what happened was that, when easterly winds were blowing, around 20 aircraft a day departing on the Compton Route were moved north and concentrated over a 7 mile band covering places like Ascot, Bracknell and Binfield. Previously they had been spread across a 13 mile band which included areas to the south of these places.  It is not regarded as a major change and won’t be reversed.

There is a separate Noise Forum, on which HACAN also has a place along with a local authority representative and representatives from the industry, which doesn’t look at area-specific work but concentrates on more generic issues such as respite.

HACAN accuses Heathrow of abusing Airport Commission’s consultation process

Campaign group HACAN has accused Heathrow Airport of abusing the Airport Commission’s current consultation, which closes on February 3rd, by “flooding the Commission with thousands of pro-forma responses.” 

In a letter to Sir Howard Davies (see letter and full HACAN response below), the chair of the Commission, HACAN, has said that Heathrow has “strained every sinew of its advertising budget to try to persuade as many people as possible to email or write to the Commission that they want a third runway at Heathrow”.

In its consultation the Commission asked for comments on whether it had correctly assessed the proposals put forward for a new runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick.

HACAN chair John Stewart, said “This was a technical consultation.  What the Commission was not looking for was a flood of responses for or against a third runway.  Yet Heathrow even went as far as placing post boxes in its terminals for passengers to pop in their letters of support.   It is simply a side-show to the serious work the Commission is undertaking”.

Letter to Sir Howard: HACAN consultation letter to Sir Howard Davies

HACAN response to the Consultation: Response to the Airports Commission from HACAN January 2015 _2_




The Most Overflown Boroughs in London

An Analysis by HACAN (2009)

 Hounslow is the most overflown borough in London.  Richmond is in second place.  But the big surprise is that Waltham Forest comes third.   Indeed half of the top twelve boroughs are in East or South East London.  In part, this is due to the impact being overflown by both Heathrow and City Airport aircraft.  It is also indicative of the way aircraft noise has become a London-wide problem.

Read the full briefing: Most overflown boroughs in London

Airports Consultation Explained

Your last chance to tell the Airports Commission what you think………..

The final consultation from the Airports Commission was launched on 11th November. We have produced a 4 page summary outlining the key points of the consultation. Airports Commission Consultation Briefing Explained

The Commission is asking for comments on whether it has assessed its three shortlisted schemes correctly.

You may simply want to email the Commission to say in your own words why you oppose a third runway.  Email:  This short paper on may help you: