Extensive plans to reduce noise for residents living near Heathrow by altering night flight timings to help quell opposition to its expansion are due to be unveiled today.
The west London hub is ready to accept recommendations made by the Airports Commission last summer that placed a series of conditions on its proposals for a new northwestern runway.
This included a ban on night flights, a commitment not to build a fourth runway and a limit on expansion until pollution levels fall within EU limits.
Heathrow wants to shift the night flight curfew by 30 minutes to accommodate early morning departures, according to the Times.
The move – set to be announced at an event in central London – is seen as an attempt to win support for the growth of Heathrow about two months before the government makes a final decision on airport expansion.
The Airports Commission made a strong recommendation backing expansion of Heathrow in a report last summer, insisting that it would deliver greater economic benefits than a second runway at Gatwick.
However, it said that the construction of a north-west runway should be conditional on 11 requirements to “address its impacts on the local environment and communities”.
Heathrow is limited to 5,800 night flights a year. It means an average of 16 night flights into Heathrow every day — typically between 4.30am and 6am — and mainly from Asia.
The airport has resisted the ban amid pressure from airlines, including its biggest customer, British Airways, which operates a number of these flights.
Sources told the Times that Heathrow was preparing to compromise by proposing to shift the night flight ban to between 11pm and 5.30am rather than 11.30pm and 6am. This would ensure that incoming flights do not interfere with large numbers of early departures from 6am.
Other conditions that Heathrow is expected to accept include:
- Ruling out a fourth runway after approval of a third, with Sir Howard warning that there was “no sound operational or environmental case” to double the size of the airport;
- Environmental measures to push more customers on to public transport and cut pollution levels;
- Making sure that households under flight paths are given “predictable respite” by alternating arrivals and departures between runways;
- Creating a clear “noise envelope” that legally binds the airport to stay within limits by focusing on quieter aircraft;
- Holding Heathrow to its commitment to spend more than £1 billion on insulation schemes along with a “noise levy” on passengers.
A third scheme – to extend the existing northern runway at Heathrow to create a double-length landing strip – is also under consideration by ministers.
A final government decision was expected to be made in December but was delayed until July pending analysis of the noise and environmental impact of more aircraft over the southeast of England.
John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, said: “Between a third and half of people who have joined our group have done so because of night flights. It is the biggest source of irritation to a great number of people.”
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