Airports Commission Report – in brief

This is a very brief summary of the main points in the Airports Commission report published yesterday (1st July) The full report is on the Commission’s website.  The Commision of course has only made a recommendation.  The Government will make the final decision by the end of the year.

The Airports Commission has recommended that a 3rd runway is built at Heathrow.  It said a second runway at Gatwick was ‘credible’ but was not convinced it would provide direct flights to as many destinations in the emerging markets as Heathrow.  The Commission said that improved connectivity to these emerging markers was critical to the UK economy and was a key factor in its decision.

The Commission has gone for Heathrow Airport’s proposal for a new runway north of the existing airport in preference to the Heathrow Hub proposal that would have extended the existing northern runway.  It said that the Hub proposal had credibility and did not raise safety concerns but it lost out on noise and air pollution grounds.

Legally-binding conditions:

The Airports Commission has said that a third runway should only go ahead if it is accompanied by legally binding conditions which would include:

  • A ban on all scheduled night flights in the period from 11.30pm to 6am
  • No fourth runway
  • A legally binding ‘noise envelope’ putting firm limits on the level of noise created by the airport
  • A new aviation noise levy to fund an expanded programme of mitigation
  • An independent aviation noise authority
  • A legal commitment on air quality

The new flight paths have not yet being released but Heathrow has said they will feature respite from the noise for more areas than at present.

Currently the only areas getting relief are people living under the flight paths in the boroughs of Richmond or Hounslow (and those just over their borders in Wandswoth and Hammersmith).  These areas will see their relief cut from 8 hours to 5 to allow for respite for people under the new flight path.

The Airports Commission has accepted Heathrow’s view that fewer people overall will be disturbed with a third runway in place than are today.  This, it argues, is because of quieter planes, improved operational practices (such as steeper approaches and descents) and the fact more communities will enjoy respite.

The commission confirms that nearly 800 homes will need to be knocked down to make way for the new runway.  Heathrow have said they are prepared to buy nearly 4,000 homes as some people would be so close to the airport that life might become untenable.

The Airports Commission has been guided by the Committee on Climate Change (the Government’s advisers) that one new runway could be built in the UK without breaching climate change targets.  But adds that demand might need to be restrained to stay within the carbon change targets.  If so, some sort of carbon price would need to be put in place with could add significantly to the price of a ticket.