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Third Runway at Heathrow FAQ


A 3rd Runway at Heathrow

 10 reasons why we oppose it

 The previous Government set up the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, to look at whether new runways would be needed.  It narrowed the choice to a 2nd runway at Gatwick or a 3rd runway at Heathrow.  In its final report, published in July 2015, it recommended 3rd runway at Heathrow.  But it is not a done deal.  The Government makes the final decision.  An announcement is expected before Christmas.  But that will not mean it is a done deal.  It could face legal challenges. It will need to get planning permission.  The last Labour Government gave permission for a 3rd runway but it never saw the light of day because of the weight of public opposition.  It could happen again.

A 3rd runway would mean 250,000 extra flights a year using Heathrow

  1. Over 700,000 live under the Heathrow flight paths; making London the most overflown city in Europe


Number of people affected:B6-cFXqIQAAmnm22.  At least 783 homes would be demolished

That is simply the number required for the runway itself.  Heathrow has recognized that up to 4,000 in total might need to be bought up because the current plans leave too many people uncomfortably close to the new runway.

 3.  Tens of thousands would be under a flight path for the first time

A new runway inevitably means a new flight path. Many people in West London, (including parts of Chiswick, Brentford and Hammersmith) as well as areas west of the airport could get planes for the first time for possibly as many as 13 hours in one day.

4.  A third runway is not essential for London economy

More business people and tourists fly into London each year than fly to any other city in the world.  Most have no preference which airport they use. This trend will continue whether or not a third runway is built at Heathrow.  The Airports Commission, while favouring Heathrow, still called Gatwick a credible option.

  1. There are big air pollution problems around Heathrow

Heathrow is the only major UK airport where air pollution levels remain stubbornly above EU legal limits. The pollution comes from the planes but also from the traffic on the nearby motorways.  Despite cleaner planes and cars coming on-stream, there is real doubt whether, with a third runway and its extra 250,000 flights, the air pollution limits will be met.

6. A 3rd runway would cause health problems

There is clear evidence that the high levels of air pollution in London are causing health problems, and even early death.  Studies also show that noise can cause stress and heart problems as well as impact on children’s learning.

 7.  A 3rd runway would require expensive rail and road upgrades

The M25 between junctions 14 and 15 (Heathrow to the M4) is the busiest section of motorway in UK.  It may need to be upgraded even without a 3rd runway but part of the M25 would need to be put in a tunnel if a new runway is built.  It is estimated that the road and rail upgrades could cost at least £5 billion.  Heathrow Airport will pay for any new runway but could well ask for public money to pay for the surface access improvements.

 8.  It would cause big climate problems

A third runway in itself would not bust the Government’s targets to cut CO2 emissions but it would mean that the planes using the country’s other airports would need to be strictly controlled.

 9.  It would face massive opposition

There would be opposition not just from local residents but also from environmentalists, many local authorities, politicians from all parties as well as some businesses and trade unions. When the last Government tried to build a third runway, it was defeated by this coalition.  Huge rallies attended by thousands of local people, cross-party political activity, eye-catching direct action, all backed up by sound arguments saw of the plans for a third runway.

 10.  There are alternatives

Other airports are being looked at where the impacts of expansion would be less but there is also scope for a switch to rail.  Around 20% of the flights currently using Heathrow are domestic or to near-Europe.  And, indeed, 45% of air trips within Europe are 500 kilometres or less in length.  If trains were fast and more affordable, a number of people would switch from air to rail.


Most noise emails come from…..EAST of Clapham Junction

HACAN gets more emails from areas in South London east of Clapham Junction in a typical week than any other single area. 

This surprises people when I mention it to them.  They expect most of the complaints to come from areas closer to the airport.

I suspect there are four reasons for this:

  • In West London there is now more of an acceptance of the noise (though this is far from universal).
  • Most people moving into West London know there may be planes in the area; this is not the case elsewhere.
  • Unlike West London, there is no real respite from the noise.  In West London people under the landing flight paths get a half day’s break from the noise when planes switch runways at 3pm each day.
  • The fact, brought up in a number of the emails, that  an operational change (often quite a small one) by air traffic controllers can have the effect of concentrating flights over particular areas.

The number of planes flying over parts of SE London can be considerable, with HACAN having recorded over 40 planes an hour at the Oval, the vat majority under 4,000 ft.

Below are a selection of the emails we received over the last week or so.

And do read the final one – a heartfelt plea from NE London, from Walthamstow, over 25 miles from the airport


(Note to aviation experts: some of the assumptions people make about why they are suffering noise may not be accurate.  Don’t let that get in the way of their clear message: they are suffering from the noise.)


Morning, I’ve just moved into Camberwell and I’m devastated by the CONSTANT drone of aircraft. There is literally no respite and the garden has become a no-go zone. We are so far away from Heathrow but almost every plane that lands there flies directly over us and unlike areas of West London, there is no respite or ‘off-days.’

Is there any good news you can provide or have I just made the most expensive mistake of my life?


Hi, when you see coverage of noise you see more (understandably) on noise near the airport. However, we in Forest Hill get noise from around 5am loud enough to wake us up, and are in SE6 area. What can residents from further afield do to get their point about noise across?  Do you have regional or borough action groups or citizen reporting and monitoring groups? I would like to set up a noise monitor but don’t know how to best do this in a way that will ensure the data is usable. Please advise!


Dear Sir or Madam, Do you know if there are any groups or people in Kennington/Lambeth North area who are also disturbed by the massive increase in aviation noise since 2012? I am looking to get in touch to compare their experiences to my own. I assume you are aware that peak noise from Heathrow arrivals have increased fourfold in this area and due to the increase in frequency of flights, there no gaps in the noise.


Hi John, I hope you are well.  We have noticed a further increase of flights – this is now getting out of hand!  We now have times where there are planes every 2 minutes!  We never used to be overflown like this in Hither Green.  Could you please provide the latest data so we can see the increase and suggest what we can do to take further action.


Thanks John.  So from the WebTrak data yesterday I can see now that planes cut across Wandsworth Common so at least now it’s starting to show what we can all see so some progress here*.  The obvious next question is who changed the approach path (it seems from the Croydon stack) as they have never come across the Common before?

* His previous email was a complaint that Webtrak was not showing the true location of the planes.


Please can you advise on action I can take.  Family and neighbours suffering from sleep deprivation thru 4am onwards noise of numerous Heathrow flights and total loss of amenity and enjoyment of our homes. Our property seems to be under the direct flight path. Flights greatly increased as has noise. Generally woken up every morning just after 4am by noise Heathrow incoming flights which even keeping a radio on overnight as background noise, can’t block out aircraft noise. We suffer noise blight from the two “stacks” etc our side of Kent (Biggin and the other one). Have you been contacted by anyone else the Sundridge Park/Elmstead Woods side of Bromley? Can you please let us know whom we can take this totally unacceptable situation up with and if I can do anything constructive in your organisation to get satisfaction for all the residents her in getting rid of this blight on our lives.


I would like to report intense, constant aircraft noise in Brockley, SE4. Planes thunder over the house, over and over again, every day for 18 hours non-stop – a relentless drone and roar of aircraft (e.g. today 21/7/2015).  There is absolutely no relief in the area. I am aware that “planes have always been over the area”, as Heathrow often says, but they have never been at this concentration or intensity, this has got a lot worse recently.

When will the area gets some respite?


from Walthamstow, over 25 miles from Heathrow:

Walthamstow noise

A question of trust

Despite the efforts of Heathrow to be more straightforward and transparent in recent years, there is still as huge legacy of distrust.  The almost universal reaction by people – at least those communicating with HACAN  –  to the list of conditions imposed by the Airports Commission accompanying its recommendation of a third runway has been that Heathrow cannot be trusted to fulfil them.  They point to this letter, written almost 20 years ago, where the then CEO of Heathrow said explicitly that the airport did not want a third runway:  BAA 1999 letter to resident.  Overcoming this trust deficit is possibly the biggest challenge Heathrow faces. 

HACAN backs Frequent Flyers Levy to replace Air Passenger Duty as “both green and equitable”

Press Release

 21st June 2015 for immediate use

 HACAN backs Frequent Flyers Levy to replace Air Passenger Duty as “both green and equitable”

Campaign group HACAN has given its backing to the plan for a Frequent Flyers Levy to replace Air Passengers Duty.  The proposal, released this weekend (1) and based on reports from the New Economics Foundation and CE Delft (2), suggests that each person is given one tax-free flight a year (if they want to take it) but that the tax rises with every subsequent flight taken (3).

Just days before the Airports Commission is due to publish its recommendation on whether a new runway should be built at Heathrow or Gatwick, the New Economics Foundation report suggests that no new runways would be needed if a Frequent Flyers Levy was introduced.  The growth in aviation would be curbed sufficiently to allow existing runways to cope with future demand.

The backers of the Frequent Flyers Levy argue that 85% of the British public would benefit from it:  Last year:

  • 52% of us took no flights
  • 22% took one flight
  • 11% took 2 flights
  • Less than 15% of people took 3 or more flights

15% of people took 70% of flights.  These are the people identified as the frequent flyers. Their defining characteristics are that they earn more than £115,000 a year and have a second home abroad. Most of them come from the City of London, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Surrey.  And their most popular destination is tax havens!  These are predominately not business flights.  Business travel by the UK population is declining.  It is now just 12% of all flights.  It is leisure travel, particularly by the frequent flyers, which has soared.

Work commissioned from the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) found that over 50% preferred the Frequent Flyers Levy to Air Passenger Duty

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “The beauty of this proposal is that it ticks both the equity and green boxes. It is a way of controlling the growth of aviation but still allowing ordinary families a holiday in the sun.”

Organisations backing the Frequent Flyers Levy include the Campaign for Better Transport the New Economics Foundation, the Tax Justice Network, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.


 Notes for Editors: 


(2).  The New Economics Report covering the economics: FFL FINAL DRAFT in template_updated  and the CE Delft report covering the implementation:  Proposal for a Frequent Flyer Levy unformatted_June 5th

(3). More information Frequent Flyers Levy Briefing    or

For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Airports Commission Air Pollution Consultation

The Airports Commission has released a short consultation on air pollution, with  29th May deadline.  The consultation documents can be found on the Commission’s website:

This is a technical consultation assessing  future air pollution levels around Heathrow and Gatwick if new runways are built.

It is unlikely that this consultation was prompted by the recent Supreme Court ruling that required the Government to draw up plans by the end of the year on how it was going to meet the EU legal limits on air pollution (across the UK).  The Airports Commission, under Sir Howard Davies, always intended to do this work.

The legal limits came into force in 2010 under the terms of the EU Air Pollution Directive but the EU has not taken action against breaches of them because no member state has been able to meet the targets.  So the Commission is now asking member states to outline plans on how they intend to meet the targets but without having set a new date.

During the last consultation the Airports Commission carried out, it said it was going to do more work on air pollution, particularly on how pollution levels might disperse.  This is critical because the predictions were that by 2030 (when any new runway would be up and running) there might still be pockets around the airport that would be over the EU legal limits.  Dispersal could potentially spread the pollution more thinly so that no area remained above the limits.

The Airports Commission commissioned the consultancy firm, Jacobs, to do the work on dispersal.  Jacobs has found that by 2030 there will be a problem in small areas close to the Bath Road (very close to the airport) if no mitigation measures have been put in place.  The problem would be a little worse from the Heathrow Hub scheme that with the Heathrow Airport’s 3rd runway scheme.  But it expects the problem to be resolved within a few years.  Jacobs doesn’t appear to foresee a problem at Gatwick.

Jacobs then lists the mitigation schemes by Heathrow – things like encouraging airlines to shut down an engine during taxiing, the use of the extended runway to allow a proportion of the take-off emissions to be well away from the airport boundary and the introduction of congestion charging in the area.  But it doesn’t really analyse them.  Rather it tends to assumes that, with some mitigation, the levels will be below the EU legal limits in 2030.

There is one other point that it not addressed.  A new, if built, will not be running to capacity by 2030.  Jacobs doesn’t look at what air pollution levels will be when it is running to capacity.  It implies that with mitigation measures in place and, as aircraft become cleaner as the years go by, there should not be a problem.  But no detailed work has been done on this.

Community Noise Forum set up

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.

HACAN accuses Heathrow of abusing Airport Commission’s consultation process

Campaign group HACAN has accused Heathrow Airport of abusing the Airport Commission’s current consultation, which closes on February 3rd, by “flooding the Commission with thousands of pro-forma responses.” 

In a letter to Sir Howard Davies (see letter and full HACAN response below), the chair of the Commission, HACAN, has said that Heathrow has “strained every sinew of its advertising budget to try to persuade as many people as possible to email or write to the Commission that they want a third runway at Heathrow”.

In its consultation the Commission asked for comments on whether it had correctly assessed the proposals put forward for a new runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick.

HACAN chair John Stewart, said “This was a technical consultation.  What the Commission was not looking for was a flood of responses for or against a third runway.  Yet Heathrow even went as far as placing post boxes in its terminals for passengers to pop in their letters of support.   It is simply a side-show to the serious work the Commission is undertaking”.

Letter to Sir Howard: HACAN consultation letter to Sir Howard Davies

HACAN response to the Consultation: Response to the Airports Commission from HACAN January 2015 _2_