BAA Back Away From 480,000 Limit at Heathrow

A senior BAA manager has admitted for the first time that the company would be prepared to break the cap on the number of flights

A senior BAA manager has admitted for the first time that the company would be prepared to break the cap on the number of flights permitted to use the airport each year which was set by the Government when it gave Terminal Five the go-ahead in 2001. Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Transport at the time, imposed an annual limit of 480,000 flights using the airport (1). Until now BAA has made it clear it would adhere to that limit. But one of its senior managers, Tabitha Stebbings, told a recent meeting of the Heathrow Area Consultative Committee that, if it felt that the noise, air pollution and traffic levels would not be excessive, BAA would seek permission to go beyond the 480,000 limit (2).

Ms Stebbings, who heads up BAA’s work on Project Heathrow (3), which is looking at the impact ‘mixed-mode’ and a 3rd runway would have on Heathrow, said that BAA was “not neutral” in these matters. She admitted that if “a number of pre-conditions were met” BAA would be prepared to seek permission to exceed the 480,000 limit (4).

John Stewart, Chair of pressure group HACAN ClearSkies, “At last the truth is out. BAA has been stringing us all along for nearly three years with assurances that they intended to work within the 480,000 limit.”

Notes for Editors

  1. When he recommended the go-ahead for Terminal, Roy Vandermeer, the Inspector at the T5 Pubic Inquiry, suggested that, for the sake of the residents under the flight paths, annual flight numbers should be capped at 480,000 when Terminal Five opened (2007). This was accepted by the Government in November 2001. In July 2002, when announcing the consultation for a possible 3rd runway at Heathrow, the current Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said that the 480,000 limit only applied to the existing two runways.

    • At present there are around 465,000 flights at year

    • If mixed-mode was introduced between 7am and 5pm, on Government figures, this would rise to at least 515,000 a year

    • A recent report, compiled by the CAA for the Department for Transport, estimated that a 3rd runway (without mixed-mode on the existing runways) would mean 700,000 flights per year; with mixed-mode, around 735,000 flights.

  2. As part of the conditions attached to the Terminal Five decision, the Government said that BAA, if it wanted to exceed the 480,000 limit, would need to make the case at a Planning Inquiry.

  3. Project Heathrow has been set up by the Department of Transport to look again at the impact on air pollution, noise and traffic of a third runway and the introduction of mixed-mode operations. (it is working closely with BAA on the project). Currently planes landing over London use one runway until 3pm before switching to the other. This gives residents closer to Heathrow a half day’s relief from the noise. It is known as runway alternation. Mixed-mode operations would mean the abolition of runway alternation.

  4. Tabitha Stebbings was addressing the meeting of the Heathrow Area Consultative Committee held on 21st July.

For further information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957 385650.