Thursday, 18 May 2017

Heathrow - Last Chance to Stop the Third Runway

Theresa May's government, if re-elected (as seems likely), supports the Davis Report recommendation of a new North West runway at Heathrow.  

The Third Runway will result in many new flight paths and, for the first time, Shepherd's Bush, Askew Road, Ravenscourt Park and Chiswick will be affected. 

What will this mean? In short, a dramatic increase in noise levels, with aircraft directly overhead every 90 seconds from approximately 5.30am to 11.30pm. 

So the question for residents of Shepherd's Bush is, can the Third Runway still be stopped?

There is still time to have your say
We are coming to the end of a 16 week period of official public consultation, which ends on 25th May. This is your opportunity to tell the government what you think. If you feel concerned about the prospect of airport expansion, make sure you have your say.

Online Consultation
The online consultation form is complex. Below is a "cheat sheet" issued by HACAN, a campaign group that is fighting the new runway, to make it easier to fill out the online form.  To find the consultation form,  click on the link "Consultation on Heathrow Airport expansion" under "Have your say" and then on the next page click on "Respond online" under the "Ways to Respond" section at the bottom of the page.

You can also email your objections to: A simple email saying you oppose the 3rd runway and giving a few reasons why you do is enough.

HACAN Cheat Sheet
The online consultation form includes 9 questions - but you don't have to answer all of them. Questions 3 and 7 in particular are very technical and could be ignored.

Question 1: The Government believes there is the need for additional airport capacity in the South East of England by 2030. Please tell us your views.

There is a difference between demand and need. On current demand projections there would be a need for a new runway but demand for flying is being artificially fuelled by the under-pricing of aviation. If aviation was priced to reflect the climate, pollution, health and social costs that flights impose and if aviation fuel was taxed or a substitute charge such as Frequent Flyers Levy - - was introduced, there would be no need for additional capacity in the South East.

Providing additional capacity in the South East will also exaggerate the current regional inequalities in the UK and limit the growth of the regional airports with the resulting benefits to their regional economies.

Question 2: Please give us your views on how best to address the issue of airport capacity in the South East of England by 2030. This could be through the Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme (the Government’s preferred scheme), the Gatwick Second Runway scheme, the Heathrow Extended Northern Runway scheme, or any other scheme.

Heathrow is not acceptable given its considerable local downsides.

• According to the European Commission, at least 725,000 people live under the Heathrow flight paths; that is, 28% of all people impacted by aircraft noise across Europe. A new runway would bring a considerable number of new people under a flight path for a first time. Additionally, those communities which currently enjoy a half day’s break from the noise are likely to find that reduced (in order to ensure people under the new runway also get respite). A third runway is expected to increase the number of planes using Heathrow by around 250,000 a year. Quieter planes and improved operation practices cannot wish that number away.

• Air Pollution levels already exceed the official safe levels in areas around Heathrow. With another quarter of a million or so planes using the airport if a third runway is built, is it really feasible that air pollution levels will fall even with quieter and cleaner planes coming on-stream? Vehicle traffic is the big problem. It is likely to require radical measures – such as scrapping/reducing diesel vehicles, a congestion charge scheme around Heathrow - to enable air pollution targets to be met. Can they be guaranteed?

• At least 783 homes will need to be demolished to make way for a third runway. And many more people might need to leave their homes if the noise proves intolerable. Heathrow has offered to buy nearly 4,000 homes in total. Of course these people are being offered compensation but will it be enough to enable them to buy a new home in the area of their choice? And, for many, nothing can compensate for the loss of their community.

The facts speak for themselves: The Government argues that Heathrow would be a hub airport but there are questions of how important a hub will be in the future as the growth is in point-to-point travel.
Question 3: The Secretary of State will use a range of assessment principles when considering any application for a Northwest Runway at Heathrow Airport. Please tell us your views.

These are the standard assessment principles used in assessing major infrastructure projects. If there are flaws in any of them, the flaws are not specific to a third runway.

Question 4: The Government has set out its approach to surface access for a Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme. Please tell us your views.

The requirement on Heathrow ‘to implement measures to deliver on its commitment of no increase in airport related road traffic, with more than half of passengers using public transport’ is admirable but the NPS does not make clear how this will happen.

There has been considerable debate on what surface access might be required and who will pay for it. The NPS has not resolved this. The Airports Commission put the cost of the road and rail improvements required at £5-£6bn. Transport for London has put it as high as £18.4bn. Heathrow Airport told the Environmental Audit Committee that it would only pay £1.1bn. None of this has been satisfactorily resolved. There should be no question of a third runway going ahead until it is resolved. The level of road traffic will determine levels of congestion and pollution around the airport.

The target the Government is proposing of “no increase in airport related road traffic” should specifically include freight traffic, given the significant expansion Heathrow envisages to its freight operations. It is not clear it does at present.

Question 5: The draft Airports National Policy Statement sets out a package of supporting measures to mitigate negative impacts of a Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme. Please tell us your views. Are there any other supporting measures that should be set out? In particular, please tell us your views on:

5.1. Air quality supporting measures

The DfT has made clear that failure by Heathrow to demonstrate that it can comply with air quality requirements will result in refusal of development consent. Air quality will present Heathrow with a major challenge because a lot of the measures needed to deal with it are outwith its control. The main source of air pollution in the area is from road vehicles. There will need to be a step-change in getting rid of the dirty vehicles over the next 10 years if Heathrow is to meet its target by the time any third runway opened. Such a step change may also need to be accompanied by some sort of road pricing scheme which is likely to cause controversy and impose costs on the local economy. Realistically, the Government should impose the condition that the number of flights on a third runway should be limited until it complies with air pollution limits. In short, the air pollution challenge is an enormous one.

5.2. Noise supporting measures

The proposals for less noisy planes, improved operational practices, guaranteed periods of respite and a slightly longer night ban are welcome but they don’t go nearly far and, indeed, for the NPS to argue that they will result is less noise annoyance than there is today, despite 250,000 extra flights using Heathrow, is unconvincing.

The NPS has failed to factor in four critical things:

• In predicting future levels of noise annoyance the NPS has largely relied on the method of averaging out noise. This method gives too much weight to the noise of individual aircraft (which is on the whole falling) and not enough weight to the number of planes (which will rise). It is this distortion which allows both the Airports Commission and the NPS to claim that, despite 250,000 (albeit quieter) more planes, the noise contours will shrink.

• The NPS has failed to fully take into account the particular impact aircraft will have on people newly under a busy flight path. Residents who are under a flight path for the first time, with planes going over as many as one every 90 seconds, will on the whole have a much lower tolerance level than those who have lived with the planes all their lives.

• The NPS has failed to use any metric which tests the real level of annoyance of people in areas that may just have planes for part of the year but, when they do so, are badly hit. Places such as Teddington and Ealing are overflown for about 30% of the time in a typical year (when an east wind blows). They fall outside the annual noise annoyance contours. A metric should have been used to capture their situation.

• There is not enough in the NPS on the impact the reduction in the length of their respite period will have on many residents in West London. The NPS acknowledges this reduction but then skates over the problem by saying the shorter periods of respite will be more predicable (para 5.60). It is also worth stressing that people want less noise not just predictable noise.

5.3. Carbon emissions supporting measures

The NPS endorses the view of the Committee on Climate Change (the Government’s independent advisers on climate change) that a third runway could be built without the UK breaching its target to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation to their 2005 levels by 2050. The Airports Commission also took that view but added that, if growth at other airports in the country exceeded expectations, the Government would need to look at introducing some form of carbon tax or carbon trading scheme to manage overall demand so that the targets would not be exceeded. The NPS says nothing about this.

5.4. Compensation for local communities

The Government is to offer to those people whose homes would be demolished the pre-blighted cost of their home, plus 25% plus paying their stamp duty and removal costs. People in the immediate area who felt the noise of living under the new flight path was unbearable would be offered the same package. Many people in the Heathrow villages don’t believe the package is acceptable: see

Heathrow has offered to set aside £700 million to help with noise insulation for everybody within the 55Lden contour (that stretches to about 16 miles from the airport), to be paid over a 20 year period. The Environmental Audit Committee in its report (February 2017) said: “We believe that communities affected by noise in 2026 should not have to wait 20 years for insulation.” The timetable needs to be accelerated significantly. And there needs to be a reassessment as to whether £700 million is sufficient.

Question 6: The Government has set out a number of planning requirements that a Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme must meet in order to operate. Please tell us your views. Are there any other requirements the Government should set out?

I feel a number of the conditions should be tougher. In particular:

Night Flights. The Government is proposing a 6½ hour ban. This is not long enough. The World Health Organisation recommends an eight hour night, citing a growing body of evidence which shows that disturbed sleep can impact on health and productivity at work. It also imposes economic costs on the country. 8 hours should be the norm at Heathrow.

Respite. The Government is proposing predicable periods of respite. But it needs to be defined more than that. The half day’s break many communities in West London currently enjoy should be guaranteed but the noise is not confined to West London. Aircraft fly over vast swathes of London and the Home Counties. People many miles from the airport are calling for periods of relief. It is essential that predicable and meaningful respite is guaranteed for everybody within 25 miles of Heathrow.

Question 7: The Appraisal of Sustainability sets out the Government’s assessment of the Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme, and considers alternatives. Please tell us your views.

No comment

Question 8: Do you have any additional comments on the draft Airports National Policy Statement or other supporting documents?

This is the chance to add anything you feel has not been said. For example, this would be your opportunity to complain about the consultation exhibition or leaflet if you were not happy with them.

Question 9: The Government has a public sector equality duty to ensure protected groups have the opportunity to respond to consultations. Please tell us your views on how this consultation has achieved this.

No comment at this stage.

The Shepherd's Bush Blog offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story, email us at shepherdsbushblog(at)  And don't forget to add your opinion in the comments section below.

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