Another wasted opportunity to ban night flights once and for all

Night flights from Heathrow will continue unless the airport is expanded, the Government has confirmed. A move that Richmond and Wandsworth councils argue is a serious gamble with the health of Londoners.

The current regime for night flight restrictions is due to expire in October 2017. Earlier this year the Government launched a consultation on proposals that they claim will ‘help encourage the use of quieter aircraft’ at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Despite thousands of people campaigning for a crack-down on night flights from the airport, these proposals did not propose any changes that actually will result in a change to the number of flights allowed between 11.30pm and 6am from the West London airport.

Yesterday, the Government announced that following the consultation, the plans would be implemented. This new regime would be in place for five years and links any future reduction in night flights to the delivery of a third runway at Heathrow.

The plans include:

  • No overall change in the number of flights allowed between 11.30pm and 6am at Heathrow. This equals around 16 flights per night during the summer and 18 in the winter.
  • Changes to the “noise quota” regime which the Government says will encourage the use of new quieter aircraft.

Richmond and Wandsworth councils have long campaigned for a reduction of night flights at the airport, arguing that the Government has chosen to gamble with the health of Londoners, rather than challenge the airline industry to change. There is increasing scientific evidence which shows that night flights impact adversely on human health, leading to a variety of conditions including high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart attacks.

Cllr Paul Hodgins, Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“Put plain and simply, the Government consultation was pointless. They were proposing virtually no changes to begin with and it looks like they haven’t listened to people’s feedback at all.

“Night flights over our Capital are unnecessary and unacceptable. The World Health Organisation guidance is clear. It states that Heathrow already steps over the line when it comes to night noise. They are placing the apparent needs of the airport above the health of Londoners.

“The number of planes that depart and arrive from the airport at night is unacceptable. To protect people’s ears and sleep we need an all-out ban.”

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, added:

“The Government’s consultation on night flights has been exposed as a sham. Heathrow’s vested interests have been protected while the health and well-being of Londoners living under the flights paths has been sacrificed. Ministers need to wake up and realise the damage this is doing to our city.”

— from a Richmond Council press release