HACAN call for moratorium on airport expansion

For Immediate Use

Monday 10 May 2021


HACAN has joined forces with 15 other national and community campaign groups calling on the Government to place a moratorium on airport expansion owing to the UK’s climate change targets.

The Government recently accepted the advice of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to formally include international aviation emissions in the UK’s climate law. (1) The CCC’s analysis concludes that as well as introducing new aviation fuels and improving aircraft efficiencies, demand for flying will need to be limited. The CCC also advises that there should be no net increase in UK airport capacity as sufficient capacity already exists.

The groups sent a letter (2) to both Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, and Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government Robert Jenrick, requesting the moratorium on expansion until the Government sets out its raft of policies that ensure the aviation sector cuts its emissions in line with the UK’s carbon budgets.

A consultation on net zero aviation is long overdue and the groups suggest a moratorium is essential to avoid prejudging the outcome of the consultation.

Paul Beckford, Coordinator, HACAN, said

“The Government commitment to include international aviation emissions in our net zero targets means that all airport expansion plans should be paused until there is a national strategy for both reducing aviation emissions and airport capacity.

Heathrow have long argued that their third runway could be delivered within climate targets by explicitly excluding international emissions from their calculations. The new Government target makes this argument redundant. Government should now amend the Airports National Policy Statement in light of these more robust targets.” 



  1. UK enshrines new target in law to slash emissions by 78% by 2035, April 20th 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-enshrines-new-target-in-law-to-slash-emissions-by-78-by-2035
  2. Airport Expansion Moratorium Letter, 7th May 2021, https://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Airport-expansion-moratorium-letter-May-2021.pdf  


Paul Beckford, paul@hacan.org.uk, 07775593928

Court grants Heathrow leave to appeal on third runway


7/05/20 for immediate use

Campaign group HACAN, which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, has said that today’s judgement (1), to grant Heathrow leave to appeal does not mean a third runway is back on track.

Heathrow was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in its bid to overturn the verdict of the Court of Appeal, delivered in February, that the Government had failed to take account of the Paris Agreement on climate change in making its decision to allow Heathrow to start drawing up detailed plans for a third runway (1).

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “Today’s ruling was much as expected.  The surprise would have been if an appeal on an issue as big as this had not been allowed.  What it does not mean is that the third runway is back on track.  Heathrow remains very much on its own as the Government is not backing its appeal.”

Stewart added the post-virus situation adds to the unlikelihood of a third runway ever being built: “There is real uncertainty about future demand as the country emerges from lockdown.  Investors will want to make sure they will get a real return on their money before agreeing to the £14 billion needed for a third runway which could easily rise by the time it goes ahead.”

The court did not give a date when the appeal would be heard

The Government has said it will abide by the decision on the Supreme Court.  If Heathrow wins it will be able to resume drawing up its plans for a third runway to be presented to a Public Inquiry,

probably within the next two years.  The Government, though, would have the final say as it would need to endorse or overrule the recommendation of the planning inspectors.


Notes for editors

(1). https://www.supremecourt.uk/news/permission-to-appeal-decisions-07-may-2020.html

(2). On 28th February the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government’s policy on a third runway at Heathrow was illegal. It found that the Department for Transport should have taken the climate change implications of the Paris Agreement into account when drawing up the National Policy Statement which outlined its plans for a third runway. The court invited the Government to review the climate section of the National Policy Statement (NPS).  The NPS, drawn up by the Department for Transport, put forward the case for a third runway at Heathrow.  In June 2018 the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted in favour of the NPS by 415 votes to 119.

That gave Heathrow the green light to draw up detailed plans for the new runway.  Those plans would need to be put to be put to a Public Inquiry but the principle of a third runway had been agreed by Parliament.  What the Court of Appeal found was that the NPS was unlawful because it had not taken into consideration the Paris Agreement and the commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Court did not rule against a third runway and invited the Government to reconsider and amend what the NPS about the third runway in order to take account of the Paris Agreement.  In normal circumstances that it what a Government would do so that the project would be delayed rather than abandoned.  But it is widely assumed that the Prime Minister Boris Johnston, a long-standing opponent of Heathrow, will amend the NPS to kill off a third runway.  The Government decided not to appeal.

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650 



27/2/20 for immediate use


The Court of Appeal today ruled that the Government’s policy on a third runway at Heathrow was illegal.  It found that the Department for Transport should have taken the climate change implications of the Paris Agreement into account when drawing up the National Policy Statement which outlined its plans for a third runway.  The court invited the Government to review the climate section of the National Policy Statement.

John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, the residents’ organisation which has been campaigning against a third runway since 2003, said, “It does look as if this is the end of the road for a third runway.  It is hard to see a Government lead by Boris Johnson, who has always been against the runway, appealing against this decision.  In fact, it probably gives the Prime Minister the opportunity he was looking for to drop the runway.”

The challenge had been brought by a number of local authorities (Hammersmith, Richmond, Windsor & Maidenhead, Hillingdon and Wandsworth), the Mayor of London, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Plan B.

The Government is expected to make a statement later today.


For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 OR 07957385650

Committee on Climate Change: growth needs to almost halve if aviation is to meet its climate targets by 2050

strictly embargoed until 00.01 24/9/19

The Committee on Climate Change(CCC), the Government’s official advisers, has said in a report out today that growth at UK airports needs to be almost half the predicted levels if aviation is to meet the government’s target of aviation being net-zero carbon by 2050.

The CCC, chaired by former Conservation minister Lord Deben, said, “In the absence of a true zero-carbon plane, demand cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term. Our scenario reflects a 25% growth in demand by 2050 compared to 2018 levels. This compares to current Government projections which are for up to a 49% increase in demand over the same period.”

It says that, if the growth currently planned for London’s airports went ahead, that would leave ‘at most very limited room for growth at non-London airports’.

The report explained, “The Government should assess its airport capacity strategy in the context of net zero. Specifically, investments will need to be demonstrated to make economic sense in a net-zero world and the transition towards it. Current planned additional airport capacity in London, including the third runway at Heathrow, is likely to leave at most very limited room for growth at non-London airports”.

The CCC comes up with a number of suggestions for managing demand: “Measures should be put in place to limit growth in demand to at most 25% above current levels by 2050. These could include carbon pricing, a frequent flyer levy, fiscal measures to ensure aviation is no under-taxed compared to other transport sectors (e.g. fuel duty, VAT), reforms to Air Passenger Duty, or management of airport capacity.”

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the campaign group which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said, “The big message of the report is that unfettered demand cannot continue.  The Committee on Climate Change is challenging the Government to find ways of managing demand.”


Notes for Editors:

(1). Report

For more information:

John Stewart on 07957385650

Heathrow Third Runway Consultation Launched


17/6/19 embargoed until 18/6/19


Heathrow today launched a three month consultation into its plans for a controversial third runway which it hopes to open in 2026.  The consultation includes proposals to build the new runway over the M25 as well plans to re-route local rivers, replace utilities and bring in changes to the road network.

In the consultation the airport also sets out its plans to mitigate the effects of expansion, including property compensation, noise insulation, a community compensation fund as well as measures to deal with noise, air pollution, carbon, and other environmental impacts.

It does not, though, reveal the location of the new flight paths.  Heathrow, in conjunction with the air traffic controllers, is still working these up following an airspace consultation earlier this year.  A further consultation on flight paths is expected in 2021 when the detailed routes will be revealed.

Today’s consultation does ask for views on noise envelopes.  These will provide the framework within which Heathrow will be allowed to grow.  They will set the noise parameters which it cannot break.

The consultation also provides more detailed information on how Heathrow is proposing to implement the 6.5 hour night flight ban it is required to introduce as a condition of building a third runway.

There are also more details on runway alternation (which provides for periods of respite from the noise) and on plans to replace westerly preference with managed preference (1).

Heathrow is asking for views on its controversial proposal to bring in an 25,000 extra flights per year in advance of a third runway opening.

John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, the campaign group which opposes a third runway, said, “What hits you is the scale of these proposals.  The impact on local people could be severe for many years to come.  Disruption from construction; the demolition of homes; the reality of more than 700 extra planes a day.”

The consultation is a statutory requirement of the Development Consent Order (DCO) process.  Heathrow intends to put its final plans before a Planning Inquiry in summer 2020.  The inspectors overseeing the Inquiry will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport in 2021.  The Secretary of State has the final decision on whether or not to give the expansion plans the go-ahead.


Notes for Editors:

(1). At present Heathrow operates ‘westerly preference’ whereby planes land from the east not only when a west wind is blowing but also if there is an east wind of up to about 5 knots.  Heathrow will be proposing a move away from westerly preference to managed preference.  This will allow the direction of the planes to be switched (wind permitting) more often.  If the wind is medium – strong planes must land and depart into the wind but there is more leeway when the wind is less strong. Managed preference would allow more flexibility than is permitted by westerly preference.  For example, it could allow communities to be given some days of relief during a very long period of east or west winds.  It would also make it easier to adhere to the respite periods.

For further information:  John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650



 30 /4/19 for immediate use


Campaign group HACAN, which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, has today released a report challenging the aviation industry to take action to improve the noise climate for local communities (1)Noise Relief outlines practical measures which could be taken to achieve this.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN and co-author of the report, said, “Heathrow is drawing up plans for the biggest shake up of its flight paths since the airport opened in 1946.  HACAN welcomes many of these plans, particularly those which will bring some respite each day to the many areas which are currently flown over all day long.  But these new flight paths will not be in place for several years yet. Our report suggests measures which can be taken in the interim.”

The report’s co-author Dr Maureen Korda, a South London resident, endorsed the need for short-term action: “Long suffering residents like myself cannot wait for half a dozen more years for some sort of relief.”

The report advocates four measures be taken to assist residents:

  • Stagger the point at which planes join their final approach path:  at present 95% of planes now join within a narrow 4.8 nautical mile band;
  • Increase variation in departure routes:  over the last ten years or so aircraft taking off from Heathrow have increasingly been concentrated along narrow flight paths;
  • Promote fairer night flight arrival distribution:  night flights appear to vary their routes less than they did in the past;
  • Reduce simultaneous overflight by both Heathrow and London City arrivals:  there are days when parts of SE London are overflown by both Heathrow and London City aircraft, giving them at times over 50 planes an hour.

Stewart said: “Our proposals will make the flight paths a lot fairer.  Few will impact new areas as they are largely reverting to previous practice.” 

HACAN will now discuss with the aviation industry the level of consultation that will be necessary on the proposals it has put forward.  The report acknowledges the assistance Heathrow Airport and NATS have already provided. They have given technical advice and shared key data.


Notes for Editors:

(1).  To read the full report: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NoiseRelief.pdf  

For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650 



Embargoed until 08.00 on 8.1.19


There will be winners and losers as Heathrow proposes the biggest changes to its flight paths since the airport opened in 1946.  Although people in parts of West London will find their period of respite cut, vast swathes of London and the Home Counties are set to enjoy a predicable break from the noise from the first time.

The proposals are part of a wide-ranging 12 week public consultation which Heathrow launched today (1).  Under the proposals people in West London, who currently enjoy a half day’s break from the noise when planes switch runways at 3pm, will find that cut to one third of the day if a third runway is built.  But all-day flying will become a thing of the past for many places as the principle of respite is extended to people living under departures routes and areas such as Windsor and South East London which at present do not get it (2).

The consultation also asks for views on night flights.  One condition Parliament laid down when it gave Heathrow the go-ahead to work up proposals for a third runway is that the current 5 hour night break is extended to 6½ hours.  Heathrow is asking for views on how this should be implemented.

Heathrow is also proposing to bring in 25,000 more flights a year before any new runway opens.  The plan is called Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA). It would require the lifting of the 480,000 annual cap on flights which was imposed as a condition of Terminal 5.

Heathrow will only ask for these flights until the third runway is operational.  They would only start once Heathrow’s detailed plans for a third runway had been approved – expected to be 2021.  Heathrow aims to open a third runway in 2015 so it is likely IPA would be in place for about 4 years. 

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the organisation which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said, “A lot of West London will be badly hit by these proposals but there will be many other communities who will be relieved at the prospect of all-day flying coming to an end.  It amounts to a near-revolution to Heathrow’s flight paths.”


Notes for Editors:

(1). Heathrow proposals attached

(2). See page 23 of the attached proposals

For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Test of Green Paper noise proposals that they make a difference to people’s lives


16/12/18 strictly embargoed until 00.01 17/12/18


Campaign group HACAN welcomed the Government’s proposal in its Aviation Green Paper, published today for a 16 week consultation period, to reduce future noise levels for local communities.

The Green Paper sets out proposals for a new aviation strategy to cover the coming decades.  It stresses the Government belief that growth is important for the UK economy but also sets “practical requirements to reduce emissions and noise levels” and plans “to embed noise exposure levels into the planning approval process”.  Noise caps will be introduced and “regularly reviewed and enforced”.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the long-established body which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said: “We welcome the proposal to reduce noise levels.  The challenge for the Government and the aviation industry will be to ensure that local communities notice a real difference on the ground.”

The Green Paper also says the Government will cut air pollution from planes and will ensure that the planned growth in flight numbers is within the current climate change targets to get CO2 emissions from aviation back down to their 2005 levels by 2050.

The Green Paper assumes a third runway at Heathrow.

Alongside today’s Green Paper, the Government published a detailed assessment by NATS (National Air Traffic Control) of plans to modernise airspace.  Over the next few years UK airports will be required to switch from a ground-based system to guide aircraft in and out of airport to the satellite system that is being introduced across the world.

It will enable aircraft to be guided more precisely which the industry believes will lead to savings in fuel and climate emissions as well as improve the resilience of airports. 

Today’s report from NATS, commissioned by the Government, confirms that the new system will be workable in the congested skies of London and the South East.

The Government also confirmed today that Robert Light, a former leader of Kirklees Council, has been appointed as the chair of the ICCAN, the new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise.

The final aviation strategy is expected during the second half of next year.


For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

New WHO Guidelines tougher on aircraft noise

The new noise guidelines from the World Health Organisation, published 10th October 2018, are tougher on aircraft noise than previously.  The guidelines indicate that aircraft noise can affect the health of people living well over 20 miles from Heathrow.  They are of course just guidelines, not intended to be implemented overnight. Their main purpose is to indicate the levels at which noise can become a health problem.

Recommended Limits

Road                            53Lden                        45Lnight

 Rail                              54Lden                        44Lnight

 Aircraft                      45Len                          40Lnight

 Wind Turbines      45Lden         no recommendation

Our view this a strong message to Heathrow as it develops its new flight paths that aircraft noise problems are not confined to areas close to the airport.  

For more details, see the HACAN press release:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WHO-new-noise-guidelines-Press-Release-1.pdf 

Fullreport: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/383921/noise-guidelines-eng.pdf?ua=1

We have done a plain person’s guide to the WHO report: http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Plain-Persons-Guide-to-WHO-report-1.pdf

WHO Report: People most likely to become highly annoyed by aircraft noise when change takes place

The new WHO report has found that more people are highly-annoyed by aircraft noise than 20 years ago and that high levels of annoyance are most likely to occur when change takes place (new airport; new runway; changed flight path).  But there are also other reasons for high levels of annoyance.  Read more here:  http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WHO-new-aircraft-levels-assessed-1.pdf

High Court allows 3rd Runway legal challenges to go to full hearing

On 4th October the judge in the Courts of Justice ruled that 5 of the 6 of challenges to Parliament’s decision to back a 3rd Runway can go to a full hearing.  The one that was dropped was an individual in Birmingham.  The cases will be held over a 2 week period in March next year.   Elements of the cases he can combine to avoid duplication.

The four main challenges are from are from Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor & Maidenhead, backed by Greenpeace and the Mayor of London; the one from Heathrow Hub.  and challenges from Friends of the Earth and Plan B, both on climate change.  The fifth is from an individual based in SW London.

This ruling does not of course stop Heathrow preparing and consulting on its plans for a third runway.

Heathrow’s 3rd Runway Timetable

Assuming it is not derailed by any of the legal challenges, Heathrow intends to consult on its detailed plans for a third runway in 2019 before presenting its plans to a public inquiry in 2020.  The public inquiry by law cannot last more than 6 months and will largely rely on written evidence.  It is likely to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport in 2021.  If the Secretary approves the detailed plans, Heathrow aims to open the new runway in 2015.


 Communities face ‘a tsunami of noise’ as cabinet backs third runway

 5/6/18 for immediate use

A leading campaign group said that many communities would face ‘a tsunami of noise’ if a third runway went ahead at Heathrow.  On the day the Cabinet gave its official backing to a new runway HACAN, the long-established residents’ group which opposes Heathrow expansion, said that ‘many people’s lives would be changed forever’ as a result of the noise from the 700 extra planes a day that would use the airport if a third runway is built.

Parliament will be required to vote on the Airports National Policy Statement (1), which sets out plans for a third runway, within 21 days.  Most Conservatives are expected to back the plans.  The Labour Party is divided on the issue.  A number of leading members of the shadow cabinet such as John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbot have a long history of opposing a third runway but it is backed by many MPs outside London who believe it will improve connectivity to their areas. The Liberal Democrats oppose the new runway but it is supported by the DUP and the Scottish National Party, though the latter may be reluctant to vote with the Conservatives.

The National Policy Statement, laid before Parliament today by transport secretary Chris Grayling, also set out a number of binding conditions which Heathrow would need to adhere to.  These included a six and a half hour night ban, up from five hours at present; strict air pollution limits; improved compensation for local residents; and tough powers for the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure the costs of the third runway do not become excessive.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “This is a bad day for residents.  Many communities will face a tsunami of noise if a third runway goes ahead.  Many people who will be under new flights paths will find their lives changed forever.  We will continue to oppose a new runway but, obviously, if it becomes inevitable, we will fight for the best conditions possible for residents.”

A number of local authorities are expected to challenge any Parliamentary vote for a third runway in the courts.

If Parliament backs a third runway, it becomes Government policy and Heathrow will start drawing up its detailed plans.  It expects these to be put out to public consultation next year and to be laid before a planning inquiry in 2020.  If the plans are approved, it hopes to start building the runway in 2021 and open it in 2025.


 Notes for editors

 (1). Link to the National Policy Statement – https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/proposed-heathrow-expansion

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650