Airports Commission Noise

There are rumours – just rumours – that Sir Howard Davies may be leaning towards a third runway at Heathrow, but only if he is satisfied that the noise problems can be mitigated.

If that is the case, the response to his Airports Commission’s noise paper will have given him considerable food for thought. 

A summary of the responses can be found at :

And the full report at

The Commission revealed at the end of last week that the noise paper had generated more responses than any of its other papers.  And that, significantly, over 90% of those responses concerned Heathrow.  75%of respondents expressed opposition to further expansion of the airport.

Moreover, respondents doubted that the noise climate could be sorted.  Here’s what the Mayor of London wrote in his response:  “More runways would mean many more people exposed to noise – contrary to Heathrow’s recent pronouncement.It is misleading for Heathrow to suggest that a three runway airport would be quieter than the airport is today – a claim made in Heathrow’s long-term options submission to the Airports Commission. Thisclaim relies on the third runway being less than half utilised in 2030 and veryoptimistic assumptions on the rate of technological improvements”.

Already Heathrow is in a noise league table all of its own.  According to the European Commission over 725,000 people living under the Heathrow flight paths, that is, 28 per cent of all the people impacted by airport noise across Europe, more than Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris and Amsterdam airports combined.  Of the other London airports London City affects 12,200 people; Gatwick 11,900; Stansted 9,400; and Luton 8,600.

Howard Davies, a thoughtful and thorough man, has expressed the view that at least one more runway is needed to meet future demand in London and the South East.

The response to the Commission’s paper suggests that Heathrow should be ruled out on noise grounds.

Views came in from residents, politicians and campaign groups alike.

In a spirited response, the former Transport Secretary, Putney MP Justine Greening, said, “The issue of noise has always been dominant in decisions regarding Heathrow expansion” adding “If Heathrow expansion is allowed I believe it will be one of the biggest planning and transport strategy mistakes of this century, irreversibly blighting Londoners quality of life forever”. 

Richmond and North Kingston MP Zac Goldsmith re-enforced that view: “A third runway at Heathrow would be a noise disaster and would lead to a serious further reduction in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of London residents”. 

Fellow Conservative MP John Randall made a similar point: “a thirdrunway at Heathrow poses a real risk of endangering the quality of life, and possibly the life, of affected residents.”

Brentford and Isleworth MP Mary Macleod said, “The noise impact of Heathrow airport is already significantly affecting the quality of lives of local residents and any future plans involving an increase in aviation noise should not be tolerated.”

The London Mayor, Boris Johnson, put it cogently and concisely: “London is exposed to more aviation noise than any other city in Europe.”

Murad Qureshi, writing on behalf of the Environment Committee of the London Assembly: “Noise, as well as other environmental factors clearly swings the debate about airport capacityagainst any expansion of Heathrow”.

Noise has long been regarded as a Cinderella pollutant.  But in the case of Heathrow it could be what stops a third runway coming to the ball.

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