Airport expansion update

Please find below an overview of the latest developments surrounding Heathrow expansion, passed on to me by John Stewart of independent campaign group HACAN Clearskies.

Airbus A380 in flight

Revised Proposals for New Runways

 

The revised plans for new runways Heathrow and Gatwick were submitted to the Airports Commission on 14th May.

 

The Background

 

The Airports Commission was set up by the Government in 2012 to assess the need for new runways/airports in London and the South-East….and, if any should be required, where they should be.

 

In its Interim Report in December 2013 the Commission argued that, in its view, there would be the need for a new runway in London and the South-East by 2030. It shortlisted 3 possible options…out of the 58 schemes which had been submitted to it. There were 2 possible options shortlisted for a 3rd runway at Heathrow and one option for a 2nd runway at Gatwick. The Commission felt it did not have enough information on an airport on the Isle of Grain (what it regarded as the best of the Estuary options) and asked for more work to be done on it.

 

The Latest Plans

 

This week the promoters of the three shortlisted schemes submitted their revised proposals to the Commission. We outline each of the Heathrow option in turn.

 

1. Heathrow Airport Limited (formerly BAA): 3rd runway

 

  • The new runway would be to the north of the existing airport (between the A4 and M4).

 

  • It would require the demolition of 750 homes in and around Harmondsworth, though it is likely to be more would need to go as houses close to the airport boundary would be uninhabitable.

 

  • People whose homes would be demolished would be offered the value of their house (pre-blight) plus 25%; payment of relocation costs and any stamp duty.

 

  • Heathrow Airport has also set aside additional money to assist more people who live, or will live, under the flight paths: “Over the last 20 years Heathrow has spent £30m on insulating homes, schools and community buildings from noise. Now, we are proposing a £250m fund to pay for free noise insulation and compensation for people in high noise areas if a third runway goes ahead.” Heathrow is not clear how many people will qualify but we estimate that it is unlikely to benefit those living over 6 miles from the airport.

 

  • Heathrow argues that there will be at least a 30% reduction in noise levels. This, they maintain, will be achieved through less noisy planes, improved operational procedures (such as steeper approaches paths), periods of respite for every community and the fact more homes will qualify for the better insulation packages. However, they are silent on the impact of 260,000 extra planes a year that will use the airport. In recent years, it is the sheer number of aircraft that has caused residents the real grief.

 

  • Because the new runway is being built further west than then existing ones, parts of the M25 will need to be tunnelled. Heathrow has admitted that it will be looking for £1.2bn of public money to sort out the M25

 

  • Heathrow has floated the idea of introducing a congestion charge for cars using the airport. This is an attempt to keep congestion on the surrounding roads to manageable levels and to ensure that the high air pollution levels around the airport are brought within the EU legal limits. It is also a recognition that, even with Crossrail and improved rail links to Berkshire and Surrey, public transport will struggle to cope with the extra passengers.

 

Details of the Heathrow proposals can be found at:

http://www.heathrowairport.com/static/HeathrowAboutUs/Downloads/PDF/taking_britain_further.pdf

 

2. Heathrow Hub

 

  • This plan is being put forward by a private company.

 

  • It proposes to build a new runway on the same alignment as the current northern runway to the west of it. It would, therefore, not require a new flight path.

 

  • Like Heathrow’s plan, it would need significant work done on the M25.

 

  • It talks about public transport improvements but says nothing about congestion charging.

 

  • It argues that, apart from the 3 or so miles closest to the airport, it would provide respite for local communities, as planes would join their final approach path in an alternating herring bone fashion. It also envisages a reduction in night flights.

 

  • It says that just under 250 properties would need to be demolished, mostly in the eastern part of Colnbrook and the northern part of Poyle.

 

Details of the Heathrow Hub proposal can be found at:

http://www.heathrowhub.com/media/filer_public/c1/00/c100d5d6-3dc5-45c6-b063-da87ff25677f/updated_exec_summary_140514.pdf

 

 

Flight Paths

Heathrow have not indicated where the new flight paths will be. They say it would be premature to do so because, over the next few years, flight paths across the whole country will be looked at again. But the landing approach to the new runway is not difficult to work out. It will be over areas about a mile or so north of the current northern flight path. New take off routes are harder to figure out.

 

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Details of the Gatwick proposals can be found here:

http://www.gatwickairport.com/PublicationFiles/business_and_community/all_public_publications/Second_runway/Consultation_full.pdf

Aberdeen Airport jet

What happens next?

The Airports Commission will now consider the revised proposals submitted by Heathrow Airport, Heathrow Hub and Gatwick Airport. It will discuss the plans with their proposers. In September the Commission will stage a 2/3 month public consultation on its own view of the plans. An Estuary airport will only be included in that consultation if the Commission, by then, has decided, it is a viable option. During the first half of 2015 the Commission will start to write its final report. It will not be submitted to the next Government until Summer 2015, two months after the next election. In that report it is expected the Commission will list its favoured option. But the Government is not obliged to accept it. The final decision on how to proceed will rest with the Government.

 

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