|Davies Report "As Bad As It Can Get"
Recommending more night flights, mixed mode and new runways
The Sir Howard Davies Airports Commission has told the Government to increase the number of night flights allowed to land at Heathrow before six in the morning.
Davies wants the extra ‘night flights’ to come in between 5am and 6am to avoid congestion later in the schedule. The ‘short term’ recommendation is included in Sir Howard’s report, published today, on aviation expansion.
The commission has also shortlisted Heathrow among potential locations for new runways despite its existing noise impacts being far more severe than any other airport in Europe.
The report suggests one extra runway will not be enough to meet long term demand, leaving the door open to a fourth Heathrow runway.
Sir Howard also proposes allowing Heathrow to adopt ‘mixed mode’ operations if new runways take too long to build. This would mean ending the existing ‘runway alternation’ system which gives communities under the existing flightpaths a regular break from aircraft noise. Instead planes could come in over places like Putney and Battersea constantly throughout the day.
The 2M Group of councils says the commission’s recommendations would maximise noise pollution levels for existing flightpath communities and expose large swathes of London to new disruption.
The local authorities say flights during the early morning period are by far the most disruptive and point to mounting evidence of the serious affects they have on peoples’ health and quality of life.
Leader of Wandsworth Council and 2M spokesman Ravi Govindia said:
“There is clear evidence that early morning arrivals are the most disruptive of all airport operations and can have serious consequence for peoples’ health and well-being. Mixed mode would mean all day noise with no respite and extra runways would vastly increase this airport’s already enormous noise footprint.”
The final report of the Airports Commission is due to be published in summer 2015, two months after the next General Election.
THE PROPOSALS IN DETAIL
Davies believes that there is only demand for 1 new runway in London and the South East for the foreseeable future. Therefore a 4 runway Heathrow has been ruled out.
Davies will assess the merits of a second runway at Gatwick.
Davies will assess the merits of a 3rd runway at Heathrow
- he has ruled out the southern option and the ‘Sipson’ option
- he will look at a new runway to the North West of the Airport, as proposed by Heathrow Airport
- he will look at the northern runway proposed by the promoters of the Heathrow Hub: heathrowhub.com The existing northern runway would be extended at one or both ends. The result is that it becomes two separate, in-line runways – one for aircraft landing and one for taking off. The promoters argue that, because the runway is further west, it will reduce noise over West London but Heathrow Airport have rejected it because it would mean all-day flying on the northern runway, i.e. residents would get no respite.
Stansted – rejected
Davies has ruled out any more runways at Stansted. He has cited three reasons:
- New runways would create significant problems with the crowded airspace in the region (it is one of the busiest pieces of airspace in Europe)
- Expansion of Stansted might impact adversely on Luton and London City Airports
- The regeneration benefits would be minimal in an area with one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country
Estuary Airport – neither in nor out
Davies recognizes it has benefits in terms of noise but has major concerns about it:
- It may well infringe the EU Habitats Directive, particularly the clause which requires all other options for airports to be seen to fail before it can be proceeded with.
- Surface access would be problematic and costly
- The airlines are not at all keen on it and may be reluctant to use it.
December 17, 2013