Category Archives: Press releases

New WHO guidelines tougher on aircraft noise

Press Release

10/10/12 for immediate use


Campaign group HACAN has said that the new noise guidelines from the World Health Organisation, published today, send a strong message to Heathrow as it develops its new flight paths that aircraft noise problems are not confined to areas close to the airport.  The guidelines indicate that aircraft noise can affect the health of people living well over 20 miles from Heathrow.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “The clear message to Heathrow is that it needs to look after its distant neighbours as well as its near neighbours when planning it new flight paths.  The most effecivet way to do that is to ensure that residents living 20 miles and more from the airport are guaranteed predicable breaks from the noise each day.

Stewart added, “The findings confirm everything residents have been telling us over many years.  Noise from Heathrow is not just a problem local to the airport.”

The World Health Organisation has found that when average noise is 45 decibels it can have health effects.  Previous WHO guidelines argued that people could start to become annoyed by noise when it averaged out at 50 decibels over the day.  In geographical terms that covered areas about 16 miles from the airport, places like Peckham in South East London.

A 45 decibel contour would to extend at least 20 miles from the airport, to places like Greenwich in the east and Reading in the west.  But it would also include places such as Leytonstone in North East which experience noise from both Heathrow and London City Airport.

The World Health Organisation guidelines applies to all countries within Europe, not just those in the European Union but are simply guidelines.  Their main purpose is to outline the health impacts of noise on the basis of the available evidence.  The WHO does not expect the levels to be adhered to overnight as that would entail the closure of most airports and many roads.

The key recommendations are:

Recommended Limits

Road                           53Lden                                   45Lnight

Rail                             54Lden                                   44Lnight

Aircraft                      45Len                                    40Lnight

Wind Turbines      45Lden                no recommendation*

The recommended levels for air and wind are lower because the evidence shows that people become more annoyed by them at lower levels than road and rail.


 Notes for Editors:

The full report:

  1. Lden averages the noise out over an 8 hour day, a 4 hour evening and an 8 hour night, with 5 and 10 decibels added to the evening and night figures respectively to account for generally lower background levels at those times. Lnight averages the noise just during the night period

* The WHO felt that there was insufficient evidence to make a recommendation

For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Campaign groups welcomes Heathrow’s decision to share out noise


 20/09/18 for immediate use


Campaign group HACAN has welcomed Heathrow’s intention to give people breaks from the noise when it designs its new flight paths. Yesterday Heathrow published the results of the consultation it held earlier this year into its new flights (1).

The consultation was not on the exact route of the flight paths but on how people thought they should be designed. The least favoured option was for all-day flying on flights paths concentrated over particular communities. Most people wanted a sharing of the noise so each community got a break from the noise.  Many said new areas should be avoided if possible.

In yesterday’s report Heathrow said it would design flights paths to provide people respite from the noise and to avoid new areas wherever it could.

The report now goes to the Civil Aviation Authority for approval. If it is approved, Heathrow plans to consult further on the flight paths in January. However, the exact flight paths won’t be known for another few years.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the organisation which gives a voice to residents impacted by Heathrow, said, “This is proof that victories are possible.   For over a decade we have campaigned for respite from the noise for people. We are pleased that Heathrow has listened and will avoid all-day flying over communities.”

Heathrow has embarked on the biggest redesign of its flight paths since it opened in 1946. It is driven less by the third runway and more by the worldwide move of changing the way planes are guided when landing and taking off. Airports are moving from ground-based navigation to a satellite-based system which allows aircraft to be guided more precisely thus saving fuel, reducing climate emissions and improving the resilience of the airport.


 Notes for editors:

(1). Link to the report:…/… …

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

3rd Runway will mean ‘torrents of noise’


 25/6/18 for immediate use


Campaigners claimed that today’s vote to back a third runway will cause countless communities to experience ‘torrents of noise’ for the first time.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the long-established residents’ group which has campaigned against a new runway at Heathrow for 15 years, said, “A third runway will turn peaceful areas of London and the Home Counties into torrents of noise as planes pass over at a rate of one every 90 seconds.   Up to 100,000 people could experience relentless noise for the first time.”

Stewart added, “Of course the new runway is not a done deal.  This vote simply permits Heathrow to draw up detailed plans which in due course will need to be approved by a planning inquiry before construction can start.”

Today’s vote in Parliament means that a third runway becomes official Government policy.  The Prime Minister secured a majority of 296.  415 MPs backed a new runway, with 119 against.

A number of local authorities, backed by Greenpeace and the Mayor of London, indicated last week that they would mount a legal challenge against any vote in favour of a new runway.  It is expected the courts will hear their case in the autumn.

Over the next year Heathrow will draw up and consult on its plans for the third runway with a view to presenting them to a public inquiry in 2020.

Stewart said, “Although HACAN believes a third runway is not the right answer we will engage in the consultation process in order to fight for the best deal for residents should a third runway go ahead.


 For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

New WHO Guidelines tougher on aircraft noise

The new noise guidelines from the World Health Organisation, published 10th October 2018, are tougher on aircraft noise than previously.

Recommended Limits

Road                            53Lden                        45Lnight

 Rail                              54Lden                        44Lnight

 Aircraft                      45Len                          40Lnight

 Wind Turbines      45Lden         no recommendation

Our view this a strong message to Heathrow as it develops its new flight paths that aircraft noise problems are not confined to areas close to the airport.  The guidelines indicate that aircraft noise can affect the health of people living well over 20 miles from Heathrow.  They are of course just guidelines, not intended to be implemented overnight, whose main purpose is to indicate the levels at which noise can become a health problem.

For more details, see the HACAN press release: 


We have done a plain person’s guide to the WHO report:

WHO Report: People most likely to become highly annoyed by aircraft noise when change takes place

The new WHO report has found that more people are highly-annoyed by aircraft noise than 20 years ago and that high levels of annoyance are most likely to occur when change takes place (new airport; new runway; changed flight path).  But there are also other reasons for high levels of annoyance.  Read more here:

High Court allows 3rd Runway legal challenges to go to full hearing

On 4th October the judge in the Courts of Justice ruled that 5 of the 6 of challenges to Parliament’s decision to back a 3rd Runway can go to a full hearing.  The one that was dropped was an individual in Birmingham.  The cases will be held over a 2 week period in March next year.   Elements of the cases he can combine to avoid duplication.

The four main challenges are from are from Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor & Maidenhead, backed by Greenpeace and the Mayor of London; the one from Heathrow Hub.  and challenges from Friends of the Earth and Plan B, both on climate change.  The fifth is from an individual based in SW London.

This ruling does not of course stop Heathrow preparing and consulting on its plans for a third runway.

Heathrow’s 3rd Runway Timetable

Assuming it is not derailed by any of the legal challenges, Heathrow intends to consult on its detailed plans for a third runway in 2019 before presenting its plans to a public inquiry in 2020.  The public inquiry by law cannot last more than 6 months and will largely rely on written evidence.  It is likely to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport in 2021.  If the Secretary approves the detailed plans, Heathrow aims to open the new runway in 2015.


 Communities face ‘a tsunami of noise’ as cabinet backs third runway

 5/6/18 for immediate use

A leading campaign group said that many communities would face ‘a tsunami of noise’ if a third runway went ahead at Heathrow.  On the day the Cabinet gave its official backing to a new runway HACAN, the long-established residents’ group which opposes Heathrow expansion, said that ‘many people’s lives would be changed forever’ as a result of the noise from the 700 extra planes a day that would use the airport if a third runway is built.

Parliament will be required to vote on the Airports National Policy Statement (1), which sets out plans for a third runway, within 21 days.  Most Conservatives are expected to back the plans.  The Labour Party is divided on the issue.  A number of leading members of the shadow cabinet such as John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbot have a long history of opposing a third runway but it is backed by many MPs outside London who believe it will improve connectivity to their areas. The Liberal Democrats oppose the new runway but it is supported by the DUP and the Scottish National Party, though the latter may be reluctant to vote with the Conservatives.

The National Policy Statement, laid before Parliament today by transport secretary Chris Grayling, also set out a number of binding conditions which Heathrow would need to adhere to.  These included a six and a half hour night ban, up from five hours at present; strict air pollution limits; improved compensation for local residents; and tough powers for the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure the costs of the third runway do not become excessive.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “This is a bad day for residents.  Many communities will face a tsunami of noise if a third runway goes ahead.  Many people who will be under new flights paths will find their lives changed forever.  We will continue to oppose a new runway but, obviously, if it becomes inevitable, we will fight for the best conditions possible for residents.”

A number of local authorities are expected to challenge any Parliamentary vote for a third runway in the courts.

If Parliament backs a third runway, it becomes Government policy and Heathrow will start drawing up its detailed plans.  It expects these to be put out to public consultation next year and to be laid before a planning inquiry in 2020.  If the plans are approved, it hopes to start building the runway in 2021 and open it in 2025.


 Notes for editors

 (1). Link to the National Policy Statement –

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650





2nd April 2018, embargoed until 00.01 3rd April


A new study (1) reveals a dramatic increase in the number of flights over many areas of South East London in recent years.  Corridors of Concentration, published today by HACAN and Plane Hell Action, also found that flight paths have become more concentrated. The study was carried out to highlight the current impact of aircraft noise on south east London and to influence the policy debate by feeding into Heathrow’s recent consultation on future flight path design.

Over a dozen areas from Clapham Common in the west to Greenwich in the east were surveyed.  The number of aircraft audible from each location was recorded.  Key counts were verified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The study found that:

  • The area is heavily overflown, with typically 38 planes an hour audible to many communities.  This could rise to over 40 during busy periods.
  • Increased concentration of flights has taken place in recent years. More than ever, flights are being guided through ‘concentrated corridors’ which means particular communities are especially badly hit.
  • The overall number of flights is much the same as when we last surveyed the area 10 years ago but this masks significant changes in certain places:

– the number of flights in the east of the region has increased dramatically: daily flights in the Brockley corridor grew by 135 between 2011 and 2017; Greenwich saw an increase of 165 a day.

– flight numbers in the ‘southern corridor’ – which is focused on the southern runway – have risen significantly.

– increased concentration has meant more flights for particular communities.  Although the study focused on daytime flights, it found evidence to suggest night flights have also become more concentrated.

The study concluded many more planes are joining their final approach corridors further east than before and are more concentrated within those corridors.   Increased concentration and the join point shifting have meant that people living south of the river are experiencing an increased density of turning aircraft over their homes.

The study made three key recommendations:

  • In the short-term, flight paths need to be varied as much as possible to reduce the concentration identified.
  • The practice of concentrating night flights over particular communities should be avoided.
  • In the longer-term, when Heathrow redesigns its airspace, it needs to ensure that the new technology is used to distribute arrivals fairly over multiple approach routes.

 Dan Scorer, of Plane Hell Action, said: “This study confirms everything that people have been telling us across south east London.  The increased concentration of flights is driving many people to despair, with no escape from the constant noise over our heads.  We can’t wait 7 years for Heathrow to change flight paths – action is needed now.”

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “This study makes a powerful case that the problems caused by flights to Heathrow are not confined to West London and areas close to the airport.  For many communities in South East London the situation has got worse rather than better over the last decade.”


 Notes for editors:

(1). Link to the study:

For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Dan Scorer on 07949 653 704




 Embargoed until 00.01 23/3/18

HACAN, the campaign group which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, has welcomed the fact that the Transport Select Committee in its report on the National Policy Statement on Airports has recommended tougher conditions on noise and air quality should a third runway be given the go-ahead.  These include a night flight ban of seven hours, longer than the six and a half hour break that was recommended by the Government.

In its report the Committee has endorsed the Government’s view that a third runway at Heathrow is the best option for expansion.  But it has recommended that the Government take on-board a raft of new conditions.  These include stricter conditions on noise and air quality and more clarity on new rail access to the airport.

HACAN Chair John Stewart said: “Although disappointed the Committee didn’t reject the third runway, we welcome the tougher environmental conditions which it has recommended.  In particular we welcome its recommended seven hour night flight ban.”

Currently there is a ban on scheduled night flights from 11.30pm until 4.30am.

The Government will now be expected to respond to the Committee.  A vote on the NPS is expected to take place in Parliament in the summer.  If it is backed by Parliament, a third runway becomes Government policy and Heathrow would start to consult on the detailed plans for the runway.


 For more information:  John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Heathrow to launch two key consultations in January



13/12/17 strictly embargoed until 14/12/17 00h01


Heathrow has announced that on 17th January next year it will launch two major consultations.  The first will be into the mitigation measures that should be put in place if a third runway is given the go-ahead.  The second will be on the design of new flight paths as the airport embarks on the biggest reorganisation of its airspace since it opened in 1946.-

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said:  “These will be very important consultations for local communities.   They could impact the quality of people’s lives for generations to come.  During the consultation period HACAN will be putting forward tough proposals to mitigate the impacts of a third runway should it be given the go-ahead.  And we will seize the chance to assist with the design of new flight paths so that they give local people as much respite from the noise as possible.”

Both consultations will last for a 10 week period.

Parliament is not expected to vote on whether to give the third runway the go-ahead until April or May next year.  However, Heathrow is consulting on mitigations measures on the basis that last year the Prime Minister announced that Heathrow was the Government’s preferred option for a new runway.

Heathrow has been expected for some time to consult on new flight paths.  It will reorganize its airspace whether or not it is given permission for a new runway.  The airspace changes are being driven by new technology which allows aircraft to be guided more precisely.  This cuts the cost of fuel for airlines, reduces CO2 emissions and improves the resilience of the airport.   All airports in Europe are expected to introduce this new technology over the next decade.

Stewart said, “This new technology to modernize airspace clearly benefits the aviation industry.  But it could also work for residents if the new precision flight paths that will be coming in are rotated so as to give meaningful respite to local communities.  That is what we will be fighting for”.


 For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641; 07957385650



 26/5/17 for immediate use


 Heathrow is to start consulting on flight paths for a third runway later this summer.  It told the Heathrow Community Forum (1) earlier this week that it will launch a 12 week consultation into the design principles people want to see the flight paths based on.  It will be seeking views on things like whether people want the flight paths concentrated on a few communities or prefer to see the introduction of multiple flight paths so the noise is shared around more equally.

Heathrow told the Community Noise Forum that it will be starting from ‘a blank piece of paper’ to put in place what would be the biggest change in flight paths since the airport opened in 1946.  Flight paths will be radically altered even it Heathrow fails in its attempt to build a third runway and remains a two runway airport. The changes are part of a world-wide programme to alter flight paths driven by new technology.  Precision-Based Navigation (PBN) is being introduced.  It enables planes to be guided more precisely saving the airlines fuel, cutting CO2 emissions, allowing air traffic control to run a slicker operation with fewer staff and giving airports more resilience, regarded critical at a busy airport like Heathrow.

The technology allows aircraft to be concentrated along narrow corridors.  This concentration has caused uproar in many America cities.  It also resulted in a four-fold rise in complaints at London City Airport when it was introduced last year.  Heathrow  favours multiple routes so as to give communities under the concentrated flight paths some relief from the noise.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the campaign group which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths said, “Whether or not they get permission for a third runway, Heathrow know they have got to get the flight path changes right.  With so many people affected by noise from the airport, if they get it wrong there could be major problems.  We will be pressing Heathrow to create as many flight paths as it can so that the noise is shared around as fairly as possible.  The alternative is noise ghettos.”

It will be summer 2018 before Heathrow provides a clearer idea of where the new flight paths will be when it will consult on noise envelopes.  These envelopes will show the broad swathes within which there will be flight paths.  They will not include the exact alignment of the flight paths but those who will be outside the swathes will know they will not be under a flight path.  There will be a further consultation on the detailed flight paths, probably late 2020, with a view to the new flight paths being in place by around 2025.


 Notes for Editors:

 (1). The Community Noise Forum was set up by Heathrow a couple of years ago to discuss with community groups and local authorities all Heathrow noise-related issues and to involve the communities and local authorities in new initiatives at an early stage.

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Environment Select Committee: Government not doing enough to mitigate impact of 3rd runway

Press Release

 22/2/17 strictly embargoed until 0.01am Thursday 23rd February 2017


The influential Environmental Audit Committee in a report (1) issued today has said that the Government is still not doing enough to mitigate the environmental impacts of the planned new runway at Heathrow.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:  “If the Government wants to get Heathrow expansion off the ground it needs to show that a third runway can be built and run without exceeding legal limits on air pollution or breaching our carbon budgets.”  The report also found that the measures to tackle noise lacked ambition.

John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, the campaign group which opposes Heathrow expansion, said, “The Committee is saying in no uncertain terms that both the Government and Heathrow Airport have got to up their game big-time if they are to have any chance of getting a third runway.  They have got to prove they can deliver on noise, climate and air pollution, not just say they can.”

The report comes out just weeks after the Government launched a public consultation on a third runway at Heathrow.  The consultation ends on 25th May.  Later this year or early next year MPs are expected to be asked to vote on the runwayOnly if they vote in favour will a third runway become Government policy and Heathrow will be able to draw up detailed plans for it.

(1). The report:


Ministers must be bold enough to reject 3rd runway if consultation reveals real problems


 2/2/17 for immediate use


Campaign group HACAN has urged ministers to be bold enough to reject a third runway if the National Policy Statement consultation, issued today, reveals real problems with the proposal.  As expected, transport secretary Chris Grayling when launching the consultation highlighted the importance of a new runway to the post-Brexit economy but HACAN, which gives a voice to residents under the flight paths, argues that the downsides of a new runway are also considerable.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “There is no way that a quarter of a million extra planes a year cannot but have a severe impact on many people’s lives.  A third runway will also mean the demolition of many homes and could add to London’s air pollution problems.  The Government must be even-handed in assessing the consultation and reject a third runway if, as we believe, its downsides are simply too high.”

Stewart added: “Heathrow still has considerable hurdles to overcome before a third runway can see the light of day.  The Government has for the first time made permission for a new runway conditional on it serving unfashionable UK destinations for which there is a limited market and on Heathrow ensuring there will be no increase in airport related road traffic if the runway is built.  These are very big asks indeed.”

The consultation will last for 16 weeks.  After that the proposals will be considered by the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee.  Parliament will vote on the National Policy Statement late 2017/early 2018.  Only if it is approved will a third runway become Government policy.

If it is approved, next year Heathrow will need to draw up detailed plans for the new runway which are expected to go to a planning inquiry in 2019.  Heathrow does not expect to get final approval for the third runway until 2020 or 2021.

The Government also launched a national consultation today on its future airspace strategy.  It will asking for views on the principles which it should use in making airspace changes – for example, if people prefer concentrated flight paths or a more dispersed approach.  But it will not deal with detailed flight paths.  It will be at least another 18 months before it becomes clearer where Heathrow’s new flight paths will be if a third runway is given the go-ahead.


 Department for Transport media briefing:

For more information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650