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.