Download: Annual Report 2016/17

Noise mitigation must be a key component of Heathrow’s plans for the future

Posted on by Phillip Lee

I have long been a proponent of Heathrow expansion, based upon the economic benefits for my constituency, Bracknell, the Thames Valley region and the wider implications for the UK’s long-term prosperity. Heathrow expansion offers the best prospects for stimulating the local economy by supporting and creating jobs. An expanded Heathrow will also play an important role in the continued economic success of the Thames Valley – ensuring that it retains its position as a hub of innovation, productivity and prosperity.

I am determined, however, that current usage of Heathrow Airport, and any future expansion, should not come at the expense of the local community. I am also acutely aware of concerns relating to noise and environmental impacts. Many of my constituents have been adversely affected by noise emitted from aircraft arriving and departing Heathrow Airport. When the Airport is on Easterly operations, some residents in the Thames Valley area can be blighted by aircraft noise for up to 19 hours a day. This situation has been further exacerbated by the changes implemented by the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) which narrowed the Compton departure route corridor, resulting in more concentration of aircraft activity over densely populated areas.

In the last year, I have held regular meetings with Heathrow Executives, held a public meeting following flight trials, made representations to Heathrow Airport Ltd, National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It has become clear to me that much more attention needs to be paid to the mitigation of noise and that a relevant body should be made statutorily responsible for its reduction. NATS, who control the airspace around Heathrow, currently have no responsibility for mitigating aircraft noise that affects thousands of people.

There are many issues at play, including old aircraft and poor piloting, but NATS could do the most in the short-term to alleviate this issue. Particularly around Heathrow, where they vector the aircraft much too far from the airport which subjects many more communities than necessary to noise.

This is an area where the Department for Transport, guided by the CAA, could make improvements. Flight paths over areas of lower population, where safe and practical, should be the norm. Airlines operating into London have no specific targets for noise. There is no guidance, for example, on a specific point at which to lower the landing gear – this also contributes greatly to noise. Specific noise targets could be introduced for approaches and the Airports could impose higher penalties for non-adherences.

The UK’s future as a trading nation and tourist destination depend on our ability to meet the increasing demand for capacity. For the good of the country we have to move forward and build the airport capacity that Britain needs. Over the coming months and years, I will continue to campaign on behalf of my constituency to ensure that Heathrow can increase its capacity whilst mitigating noise and environmental impacts. – See more at: