Council fears dual use of runways will be introduced at peak times
A new survey will ask residents across south and west London to explain how runway alternation at Heathrow affects their daily lives.
The exercise comes as ministers prepare to announce plans for limiting the relief provided by the current practice of allowing planes arriving over the capital to switch runways at 3pm each day.
Aircraft noise pressure group HACAN has already described runway alternation as 'making life bearable by guaranteeing half a day's peace and quiet.'
Campaigners fear that if runway alternation is curtailed the final result could be non-stop noise from planes landing from 6am to 11.30pm.
Wandsworth Council has today launched the online consultation which is expected to be followed by other affected boroughs including Hounslow and Richmond.
Council leader Edward Lister explained:
"The Government wants to allow more planes to use Heathrow. They can do this before the third runway is built by allowing planes to land on both runways at pretty much the same time.
"At the moment the practice of switching between the two runways gives residents under the flightpath some relief. Depending on which runway is being used this provides a quiet period in the first part of the day up to 3pm or in the later period up to 11.30pm
"Now the 3pm turn-round is at risk. I am sure ministers will start by introducing dual use of runways in the busiest periods of the day - but with the airport's insatiable desire for growth it can only be a matter of time before the current quiet periods are severely eroded.
"Many people will be unaware of exactly how runway alternation works and how it protects them from constant exposure to noise from aircraft landing overhead. The purpose of our survey is to establish the extent to which people value the quiet periods they currently get."
By reducing or removing alternation ministers aim to allow many more flights into Heathrow. The Government's airports white paper strategy is to make best use of Heathrow's existing runways while it tries to find ways of overcoming current air pollution levels. These are likely to breach EU standards by 2010.
The Department for Transport is expected to publish its proposals in the coming weeks.
The information compiled form the online survey will be used to inform the local councils' response.