Number of aircraft over London set to soar

West London will become ‘the noise capital of the world’, claims pressure group

Anti-noise group HACAN ClearSkies has claimed that the number of aircraft over London will soar if the Government goes ahead with proposals to end runway alternation at Heathrow (1). At present, planes use one runway for landings and one for take-offs, changing over at 3 o’clock in order to give people living under the final flight path some relief from the noise. In the Aviation White Paper, published on 16th December, the Government announced proposals to end this practice (2). It wants to introduce ‘mixed-mode’, where planes would land on both runways simultaneously for much of the day.

The Government has already asked the airport operator BAA to draw up plans to end runway alternation. These plans will be put out to public consultation later this year.

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, said, “Ending runway alternation sounds like a mere technical change. In fact, it is anything but. Runway alternation is a life-saver for the people of West London. It is the only thing that gives them some relief from the noise. They now face the prospect of a plane passing overhead, one every 90 seconds, for much of the day. It will turn West London into the noise capital of the world. None of the local residents believe the Government’s claims that it is only looking to end runway alternation during peak hours and they are furious because, less than two years ago, the then Transport Minister accepted the Terminal Five Planning Inspector’s recommendations that the number of flights at Heathrow should be capped, specifically to preserve existing practice.”

Stewart added, “But it is not only the people of West London who will suffer. More planes using Heathrow will mean more planes in the skies over London and the Thames Valley. It will be like living under a sky of sound.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Runway alternation means that planes landing over London land on one of Heathrow’s runways between 7am and 3pm, before switching to the other runway which they use from 3pm – 11.30pm. So, for example, if planes land on the northern runway between 7am and 3pm, they will take-off during those hours on the southern runway. At 3pm, they will switch round. Runway alternation only benefits those people in West London who live under the final flight paths in Heathrow, ie the area from about Putney/Barnes westwards. There is no runway alternation when the planes approach over Berkshire (on the days an east wind is blowing) because planes are not permitted by the Cranford Agreement to take off eastwards from the northern runway. There is no runway alternation at all between 6am grfand 7am, when both runways are used for landing aircraft.

  2. The White Paper said, “Our current assessment is that a new runway at Heathrow could not come into operation before some time in the period 2015-2020. It is important, therefore, to consider the scope for greater utilisation of the two existing runways. For example, mixed mode operation in peak hours might be introduced, while retaining runway alternation for the rest of the time.”

For more information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641, 07957 385650 or Anne Hardy on 0208 878 3629.