Noise from Heathrow Airport

Report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow and the Wider Economy

APPG Report thumbnail

On 18th December, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Heathrow and the Wider Economy launched its report ‘Noise from Heathrow Airport’ which sets out how the Government, Parliament and the Aviation Industry have seriously underestimated the impact of noise from Heathrow’s flight paths.

In 2015, the Airport Commission will announce its recommendation as to whether Heathrow, the largest noise polluter in Europe, should be expanded.

This APPG report identifies a substantial list of gaps in Heathrow Airport Limited’s (HAL’s) proposals. These include:

1. Noise Measurement: Noise from Heathrow is still not being measured using the internationally accepted formula by the WHO, despite this being set out 15 years ago.

2. New Flight Paths: No information has been given about the new flight paths in the event of a third runway. Whole swathes of London will be affected for the first time by flight path noise, and residents have not been properly informed or consulted.

3. Population Growth: The London Plan projects 37% population growth by 2050. Matching flightpaths and estimated population density is highly uncertain with the potential for long-term blight over London.

4. Night Flights: Without a third runway, HAL has no plans to end flights between 11:00pm and 6:00am, which is when most disturbance is caused.

5. Fourth Runway: HAL’s CEO confirmed to the APPG that a successful third runway would pave the way for a fourth runway.

6. Loss of Respite: HAL’s plans to use mixed mode runway operations will likely lead to a reduction in day time respite with some people affected by noise from all three runways.

7. Unrealistic Assumptions: HAL’s case that new technology will reduce the overall noise impact of Heathrow is based on assumptions that cannot be justified.

8. Need for Consultation: The requirement of confirmation from the Airport’s Commission and the Government that all residents under existing and possible new flight paths will be consulted before the Commission gives its final recommendation next year.

Speaking about the findings of the report, the Group’s Chair, Zac Goldsmith MP said:
“This inquiry looked only at one problem associated with Heathrow expansion, and has identified important gaps in the Heathrow proposals. Among other serious problems, it is completely unacceptable that we are discussing expansion of the airport without any clear information about who will be affected by the new flight paths. Hundreds of thousands of residents will be badly affected, and at this stage, they know nothing about it. As a Cross-Party group of Parliamentarians we will be pressing for a firm response from the Government, Airports Commission and Heathrow itself.”

Heathrow Expansion and the Airports Commission

In December 2013, the Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies released its interim report shortlisting the options that would be considered to meet future UK aviation needs. The three options were:

Heathrow Hub proposal for extending Heathrow's Northern Runway
A second Northern Runway
at Heathrow


Heathrow Airport's proposal for a new North-Western Runway
A new North-West Runway
at Heathrow


Heathrow Airport's proposal for a new North-Western Runway
A new Southern Runway
at Gatwick

In September 2014 the Airports Commission announced that the Inner Thames estuary airport proposal had not been shortlisted due to its very high financial and environmental costs.


The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s position is that expected future passenger demand can be met with predicted larger aircraft and by substantially reducing transfers at Heathrow, most of which neither increase the number of destinations served nor benefit the wider economy. No additional runways need be built.

In particular, we are opposed to any expansion at Heathrow, which would increase noise misery for many in West London or blight new areas of the city. Instead, Heathrow’s operations should be managed to meet existing national and international public health guidelines. This includes the abolition of all night flights.



Night Flights Consultation

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign responded to the government consultation on night flights ending on 31 January 2014. You can see further details on our Past Consultations page. The proposed three-year regime to October 2017 makes no material attempt to reduce night-time noise. The Davies Commission has even recommended more arrivals before 6am.

We say the Government should introduce a new 5 year regime with a Heathrow Night Flight Ban. At the very minimum there should be reduced average noise levels, further limits on the noisiest aircraft, and no scheduled flights before 5:30am (instead of the current 4:30am). These measures are needed to reduce the negative noise impact on people’s health, quality of life and human rights and to achieve World Health Organisation standards by the prescribed year 2030.

We say steps should be taken to revise the Heathrow regime now, in time for further consultation and decision before the general election in 2015, with implementation no later than October 2015 for a 5 year term.

We say there should be no additional flights before 6am, even for a trial period. Reducing stack sizes and reducing the need to use both runways can be achieved by managing flight arrival times and smoothing schedules later in the day rather than increasing average night noise and early flight arrivals before 6am.

We are currently assessing whether the Government has followed its own rules in extending the current regime without change to 2017.

Can you help us?

The next six months will be critical to the challenge of Heathrow’s expansion proposals, short-term proposals and night flights. We are keen for more people to help develop the arguments and promote the campaign. The issues include noise, pollution, surface access, project financial viability, safety etc. No particular expertise is necessary as guidance is available from an experienced RHC team but interest in gathering evidence, or technical issues, aviation, the law, economics, finance or journalism would be most useful.

If interested, please get in touch. You can email us at