Pledge to reduce night flights reignites runway bid war of words
Heathrow vows to reduce night flights anf curb noise and pollution. Gatwick calls it a ‘desperate last throw’
18th May 2016 – Crawley Observer
Heathrow Airport’s pledge to reduce night flights and curb both noise and pollution if it is allowed to build a new, third runway has reignited the big debate over Gatwick expansion.
The promise comes ahead of a government decision which is expected this summer on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick.
Last year, the Davies Commission recommended expanding Heathrow, but with strict environmental restrictions.
Heathrow said it will allow a longer quiet period overnight” with flights not allowed to land between 11pm and 5:30am, from their current 11.30pm finish and 4.30am start.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive at Heathrow Airport Holdings, said they would bring in the new times in six and half years time if they were granted the right to expand.
The offer differs from the recommendations made by Sir Howard Davies’ inquiry which wanted a ban on night flights between 11.30pm and 6am.
The airport is promising to meet his calls for limits to overall noise and guarantees that local pollution would not get worse.
Heathrow supported the introduction of an independent noise authority and pledged not to add new capacity unless the airport complied with EU air quality limits.
The Gatwick Coordination Group (GCG) of MPs has welcomed the announcement by Heathrow Airport Ltd that it will accept the implementation of all the recommendations of the Airports Commission, including the recommended ban on night flights at Heathrow.
MPs on the group are:
- Crispin Blunt” Reigate (chairman)
- Sir Paul Beresfond, Mole Valley
- Nusrat Ghani, Wealden; Nick Herbert MP, Arundel and South Downs
- Jeremy Quin, Horsham
- Tom Tugendhat Tonbridge and Malling
- Henry Smith, Crawley
- Sir Nicholas Soames, Mid Sussex
Chairman Crispin Blunt said: “Now that Heathrow to the Airports conditions there is nothing left to stop the Government giving the green light to a new runway at Heathrow.
“The Airports Commission’s recommendations for a comprehensive package of mitigation measures clearly trumps anything that the discredited Gatwick expansion option can offer.
“The Transport Select Committee recently endorsed the Airports Commission’s conclusions and recommendations and stated that the Government’s delay in taking a decision has ‘created uncertainty.
The Government cannot go on ignoring the unambiguous and unanimous findings of Sir Howard Davies and his independent expert commission.
“Gatwick’s owners have proposed no measures to make expansion fair to local people.
“Unlike at Heathrow, Gatwick cannot guarantee respite from relentless noise to local residents. A decision for Gatwick would let down Britain and be a betrayal of communities in Surrey, Kent and East Sussex and West Sussex.
“The Government should welcome Heathrow’s announcement rule out Gatwick and get on with implementation of the Airports Commissions Heathrow recommendation.”
Gatwick Airport has responded to Heathrow’s announcement by reasserting that Gatwick remains the only expansion plan that can actually deliver for the UK.
Gatwick will provide the same growth and the same benefits that the UK has been waiting decades for without the noise impacts of Heathrow, without breaking air quality limits, at half the cost and with no public subsidy, the airport says.
Gatwick Airport CEO Stwart Wingate said: “This is a desperate last throw from a project that has repeatedly failed. Heathrow’s air quality plans, for example, fail the most basic credibility test.
You can’t promise no more cars with a third runway and at the same time to propose to expand the M25 and plan to spend millions on parking. “Heathrow has constantly failed the environmental tests and the public and politicians wont be fooled by yet more warm words which have been heard for decades.
“Rather than circling around a failed solution that will never happen, we should get on with something that can actually happen – only Gatwick can deliver for the UK.”
‘Ban Night Flights over countryside’
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) Sussex is challenging Gatwick Airport’s chief executive to follow Heathrow’s example and ban night flights over the countryside.
The CPRE said Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, had told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the move was ‘the first major change in the night flight regime in nearly 40 years’, and ‘what people have been campaigning for years’.
However, CPRE Sussex trustee, Sally Pavey, said “it would be impossible for bosses at Gatwick to make the same promise”.
“A ban on night flights at Gatwick would remove a third of their business plan for the second runway”, she said.
“I challenge Gatwick’s CEO, Stewart Wingate to do the same and ban night flights over the Sussex countryside”.
“We don’t believe there is any need for a new runway in the South East. “We are rapidly seeing the countryside disappear – losing our dark skies and our tranquillity.”
Sally Pavey, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CRPE) trustee, and Stewart Wingate Gatwick Airport CEO