I wanted to update you on what I am doing on our local campaign against more aircraft noise from Heathrow and the third runway expansion plans. I will be holding a public meeting on Wednesday 20 February at 7pm at the Community Church in Werter Road, Putney.
AIRSPACE AND FUTURE OPERATIONS CONSULTATION
Heathrow has published a consultation on its future operations with proposals for how it will operate three runways at an expanded airport and plans for the design of airspace to accommodate that, but also proposals for how to use its two existing runways in the meantime.
The consultation asks for views on noise, respite, night flights and where flight paths could be in the future. For the first time the geographical areas known as ‘design envelopes’ are published so residents can see which areas might be affected although Heathrow have caveated them so it is still very unclear where they finally will be. Frankly, there is still little detail on many of their proposals. I am concerned that it is quite possible that areas like West Hill, Roehampton and Southfields could be much more affected by flightpath noise in the future. Heathrow is proposing that there could be as many as 25,000 more flights a year – that’s 68 extra every day – even before the third runway is built. This goes over the original cap on air traffic movements set at the time of the Terminal 5 planning inquiry. It means that both that condition and the "no third runway" condition would be utterly disregarded by Heathrow. More flights would just mean more noise for our local area and, in the light of the recent drone incidents at Gatwick and Heathrow, I believe have serious implications for public safety, especially for those of us who live under the flight path.
You can contribute your views in writing. You don’t have to answer each consultation question individually – you can just provide general comments and you can also send them to me and I'll make sure they are submitted. I’ll be going through the documents and will contribute my own response but please do copy me in to your own. The consultation runs until 11.55pm on 4 March 2019. You can respond online at www.heathrowconsultation.com, complete a feedback form available at the exhibition events, send an email to email@example.com or post the feedback form or write to FREEPOST LHR AFO CONSULTATION.
AVIATION 2050: THE FUTURE OF UK AVIATION
The Department for Transport has also now published a Green Paper which outlines proposals for a new aviation strategy. It seems back to front to take a decision on capacity location for a third runway before a strategy is agreed. The Green Paper proposes greater capacity, given passenger numbers are predicted to rise by 53% over the next three decades. It seeks to establish a new decision making framework for additional runways across the UK and assumes that a third runway at Heathrow will be built. Any of the suggested approaches could recommend further expansion at Heathrow and, worryingly, it specifically does not rule out a fourth runway. The paper also sets out carbon emission targets, proposals to manage noise impacts to reduce the impact on public health and quality of life and plans for surface access to ensure it is more sustainable. It also looks at airspace modernisation with new types of flight path and includes a Passengers’ Charter.
It is important that we feed our views into this paper which will inform the UK’s strategy on aviation until 2050. Although there are some proposals that could mean improvements in terms of noise and air pollution, it seems likely that an increase in the number of flights would just outweigh them. The DfT will look at our responses with a view to publishing a White Paper in mid-2019.
The closing dates for comments is 11:45pm on 11 April 2019. You can respond with your views online at https://aviationstrategy.campaign.gov.uk or email AviationStrategy@dft.gov.uk or write to Aviation Strategy, Department for Transport, 33 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR.
The disruption before Christmas at Gatwick and Heathrow demonstrates the challenges posed by drones. Frankly, I am very concerned about the obvious public safety risk from having so many flights into and out of Heathrow over such densely populated areas. Ministers are looking carefully at this area but while it's clear that the rules and regulations must be improved, they will find it hard to stop those who want to do harm and indeed those who are just irresponsible by putting public safety at risk. I've asked the Secretary of State to review the decision to give the go ahead to a third runway in the light of the obvious risks. https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-01-10/debates/666D449C-F6AD-4844-96EE-98720EEC7D65/TopicalQuestions. This is a matter I will continue to pursue.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS
Alongside my recent questions in Parliament on the cap on flights to Heathrow and on drones, I have submitted a number of FOIs over the last few months to government departments to try to clarify some of the background on how decisions were taken on Heathrow expansion. It has been incredibly frustrating when some of those departments have refused to provide the information, even if officials have identified information for release, and I am concerned that there appears to be a tendency towards a lack of transparency. The law on Freedom of Information should help democratically elected MPs to carry out their public duties on behalf of their constituents and many of you have asked various questions about the decision to expand Heathrow. I asked the Information Commissioner’s Office to look into my concerns and she has just confirmed that she will be investigating the DfT’s refusal in particular to provide the information I requested.
I hope that’s a helpful update and I’ll continue to keep you informed on what I’m doing on Heathrow. It would be great to see you at the public meeting on 20 February.
Justine Greening MP