Heathrow Consultation 2018 January – March

HACAN South East have visited the Heathrow Consultation Event and explained their views.

Why have it?

As per new planning rules for national policy projects, this is the initial public consultation following the Governments’s decision that aviation expansion should preferably be achieved by building a 3rd runway at Heathrow, LHR.

What is it?

There are 2 main areas of discussion within the Heathrow Consultation:

The Airspace Consultation

Routes taken by planes are being modified to use the new computerised air traffic control programme known as Performance Based Navigation, PBN.  PBN will mean that planes fly in clear and narrow paths across the planet. Aviation superhighways will be created through the concentration of air traffic into densely packed routes, just as has occurred with motorways on terra firma. This will be intolerably noisy for people living below the PBN routes, where air traffic is flying low, as particularly occurs with planes departing from and approaching airports.  One part of the government’s Heathrow Consultation will pertain to this use of PBN around airports and how flight path design might mitigate the noise effects of its use.

The Expansion Consultation

This part of the Heathrow Consultation relates to how the 3rd runway will affect the land and town scapes of the Heathrow area.

  • Length of runway
  • Position of M25
  • Rail access
  • Air quality

Where to see and take part in it

Overview of the Heathrow Consultation

Details of where the Heathrow Consultation exhibits can be seen

Local venues where the documents are on display

What HACAN South East will be asking for in response to the Heathrow Consultation

  1. Fair flight paths, with multiple approach paths ensuring that air traffic can be widely distributed across London, reducing intensity of operations on any one area. Absolutely no concentration of flight paths as PBN is introduced. This applies to all airports, including Heathrow and London City.
  2. An end to night flights between 11pm and 6am, regardless of whether a 3rd runway is built.
  3. An end to the westerly bias that sees Heathrow and London City operations over London at the same time as LCY do not operate a bias. This would create a fairer distribution of air traffic, which can be unbroken over south east and east London for 17 hours a day. 70% of the time already sees westerly operations overflying London.
  4. An increase in altitude to 6,000 feet of planes joining the descent path into Heathrow over London to reduce noise disturbance.
  5. Aircraft noise reduction must be a factor for all aircraft flying at under 6,000 feet.
  6. A ban on the noisiest aircraft using Heathrow, with strong financial incentives for airlines to invest in newer, quieter aircraft.
  7. Absolute transparency and full community consultation in relation to any proposed changes to aircraft movements.
  8. Full compliance with rulings from the Independent Noise Authority.
  9. An extension of insulation and glazing programmes to residents affected by aircraft noise beyond the current 69+Laeq noise contour across the east of London
  10. End use of the average 57 Leq* noise measurement approach, and use the 55 Lden** approach to better reflect the reality of disturbance by planes across London.

*Leq is the preferred method to describe sound levels that vary over time, resulting in a single decibel value which takes into account the total sound energy over the period of time of interest.

**Lden is the day-evening-night weighted measurement over the 24 hour period, with a 10 dB penalty added to the levels between 23.00 and 07.00 hours and a 5 dB penalty added to the levels between 19.00 and 23.00 hours to reflect people’s extra sensitivity to noise during the night and the evening.

Kennington resident counts planes visible from home

A Kennington resident (SE17):

I have counted planes passing close to my home in Kennington as they approach Heathrow airport.   My count is taken from one of my windows, that is 16 miles east of Heathrow. These are my observations:

Thurs 9 November 2017:  18.10 hrs to 19.10 hrs.  I counted 50 planes at a frequency of one every 72 seconds.
This is typical of westerly landings for most of the day and evening up to about 10pm.

Sunday 19 Nov 2017:   4.30 to 5.30 pm.   A plane every 75 seconds each one keeping tightly to the same narrow corridor, heading due west a little to the south of my home.    This was going on all day from around 10 am, probably earlier:   frequency slightly less in the middle of the day.   It has been quieter since about 6pm.

The narrow landing corridor intersects with a narrow viewing corridor from my front window which faces West South-west.   A small area of sky between approx. 30 degrees and 45 degrees is visible from my sofa’s viewing point within the room and the lights of each one of the planes tracked the same path, at 40-45 degrees elevation, within this narrow area.   There is now a rebuttable assumption that all westerly landings into at least one of the Heathrow runways are being routed at low altitude along the same long narrow corridor – much longer and narrower than before.

Camberwell resident starts to campaign against noise

Camberwell resident Bridget Bell is the driving force behind a local campaign to reduce air noise and pollution over Camberwell and South London. Bridget, of John Ruskin Street, first had her sleep disturbed by aircraft over her house in July 2016. Since then they have woken her up “nearly every night”.

Here she tells us about what it is like living directly under a flight path and the impact it is having on her quality of life.

Camberwell campaign

Bridget (middle) appearing with two neighbours in Southwark News

It began in July 2016 when I noticed an unusual number of planes flying over my house, almost without a break and starting as early as 4.30am. Near neighbours had noticed something similar but were affected differently due to the layout of their houses and the angle of the flight path. And, of course, some people are oblivious.

To find out more about the campaign, or if you are affected by similar issues to those faced by Bridget, then please look here or contact us.

I have lived at the same address for 30 years and had you told me that Oval is one of the most densely overflown areas in London I would have looked at you blankly. Bar the odd helicopter and the very rare commercial plane that I imagined had gone off course or was on an emergency route I was not aware of planes, full stop.


This new regime of planes flying over me happened occasionally to begin with but really kicked into action at the start of September 2016. Since then there has been no break apart from the odd series of days when there is an easterly wind and planes approach Heathrow from the west. The disturbance is compounded by City Airport planes using a dedicated route, slightly wide of my house (think noise ghetto) that was instigated, without local consultation, sometime last year and can cause the air to boil with plane turbulence and noise as City and Heathrow flight arrivals whine through the narrow airspace low overhead.


A visual representation of aircraft movement linked to Heathrow

My approaches to the Heathrow Community Noise Forum and to CAA have returned essentially the same response: nothing has changed in flight heights, numbers, timings, approach i.e. that I, the resident, am mistaken. My MP Harriet Harman has been in touch with the Department for Aviation; Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem member on the London Assembly, and John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, have also made approaches to Heathrow. They, too, have been told ‘nothing has changed’. But I, and many others in SE5, know that something has. I also know that none of the Heathrow or Governmental decision makers has been anywhere near SE5 to experience the situation as it is on the ground.


Am I affected? Undoubtedly. The impact on my quality of life has been enormous. My sleep is disturbed; being awake from 4.30am, morning after morning, results in my getting up at 7am (when I would normally be woken by my alarm), feeling disorientated, losing my sense of balance, walking into furniture and failing to think clearly. I find myself tearful at work and with friends through sheer exhaustation. If I can, I go to bed early in order to get in the hours of sleep necessary to function well, that is if I am so tired that I am not disturbed by the flights continuing up to 11.30pm. I often feel physically sick. I wake in the night and weep, deeply depressed at finding myself relentlessly assaulted by the noise of planes, often hearing them so close that they might almost be coming in to my bedroom. I dread going to bed. I sometimes dread leaving work, knowing that my haven of a home is now just an unquiet scenario of ceaseless plane activity.

There are moments when I almost lose the will to live, stop making plans to see friends or visit museums – all the sorts of things that I have enjoyed as a London resident. It is the support of family, friends and colleagues that keeps me going as well as the quiet outrage I feel at being told that ‘nothing has changed’, that noise is ‘not a problem in SE5’, that because I am outside an arbitrarily-decided ‘noise contour’ I am not eligible for a monitor to measure plane noise and activity, quite apart being treated inhumanely and patronisingly by a small number of people who know the truth but find it inconvenient to acknowledge and do anything about.

Five hours’ sleep combined with the endless whine of planes between 4.30am until 11.30pm is sheer hell.

If you want to find out more about the campaign, or are affected by similar issues faced by Bridget, click here.


New Technology Creates More Noise

Dan Scorer:

I recently responded to the Department for Transport consultation on future airspace policy, which gives some hope that a new approach is going to be taken in years ahead to managing flight paths, addressing the complete lack of transparency and failure to engage communities that has typified most experiences of Gatwick, Heathrow and City Airport over recent years.

LCY Aerial


Over the last 5 years, I’ve become very concerned about the unfairness within current policy around how flight paths are managed and have evolved across south east London. When I moved to my current house in Brockley in 2008 it was not significantly overflown at all. Since then City airport has hugely expanded and we have a highly concentrated flight path over us when City are on easterly operations. There was little consultation, and it is has caused uproar across areas impacted from Catford to Herne Hill and beyond. Equally, we are also now swamped with Heathrow arrivals joining the descent paths to both the north and south runways. There is no respite- arrivals use both approaches from 6am to past 11pm. That 28% of people across Europe affected by aircraft noise live under Heathrow’s flight paths is a damning statistic that shows the need for drastic reform in relation to flight paths leading to an airport that was sited on the wrong side of London in relation to the prevailing winds, leading to the current situation where 750,000 people are affected by aircraft noise using a 55dB level.


I believe that new new Precision Based Navigation (PBN technology) could be hugely damaging for the mental health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people across London if it is misused to concentrate flight paths (as has happened with City Airport). South east London is already experiencing an unfair and disproportionate level of concentration both of Heathrow and City Airport (on easterly operations) flight paths. Approaches from Heathrow’s stacks north and south of London to both the north and south runway descents all converge over Brockley and then onwards over Dulwich, Camberwell, Vauxhall. With the westerly bias operating at Heathrow, we then get both concentrated easterly operations City airport arrivals and Heathrow arrivals over us. This is an absurd situation where policy is not joined up. The westerly bias should end to allow for a fairer distribution of noise pollution between west and east London. Equally, south east London sees no respite at all, unlike West London. Arrivals crisscross south east London to both runway approaches from 6am to past 11pm. This is unfair and burdens south east London with a heavy load of aircraft noise, making it a ‘noise sewer’.

A plane taking off from London City Airport


The new Precision Based Navigation system must be used to achieve an equitable distribution of the noise pollution created by Heathrow and City Airports. This means multiple approaches to the north and south runway descent paths at Heathrow and the ending of the concentration of City arrivals when on easterly operation. Personally, I would rather have a lower intensity of aircraft flying over throughout the day due to multiple approaches, than a period of respite with none/little, followed by 40+ planes an hour for 12 or more hours of the day, which is what we have to endure currently. It is this level of intensity that I find strains my mental health, due to the constant barrage of noise, whether the deep disturbance caused by the whale like A380s, or the annoyance of the high pitched whining of some smaller planes. Lower intensity, to me, would be a benefit.

The bottom line is that airports create economic benefits that are shared. But they also create air and noise pollution, which should be shared. Noise pollution in particular has to be evened out across the widest possible area to cause the lowest possible level of disturbance to any one particular area. Concentrating flight paths is unethical, damages the mental health of those blighted by ‘noise sewers’ and should be ruled out as an option.

With consultation on Heathrow’s expansion and third runway flight paths due to start later this year, it could be the beginning of a process to distribute noise more fairly, or a disaster in the making that will make the lives of hundreds of thousands of people unbearable and blight swathes of London for decades to come.

To find out more about the campaign, or if you are also affected by noise from overhead planes, then please look here or contact us.