HEATHROW AIRPORT, NEW LINES DRAWN

After recently attending the AGM of EANAG (Ealing Noise Action Group), l proposed the following motion to the London Assembly in response to residents’ concerns in West London that there might well be other ways of increasing flights at Heathrow other than building a third runway:

“This Assembly welcomes the government’s decision to refuse a third runway at Heathrow and the BAA announcement that it would not seek planning permission for a further runway at Heathrow. However, this Assembly would strongly oppose any increase in the number of flights from its airports in and around London by other means, such as mixed mode operations, more night flights or expansion at London’s airports.

 The Assembly notes the long standing opposition of the Parties in the coalition government to any increase in flights, mixed mode operations, night flights or expansion at London’s airports, and calls on the Government to firmly and openly reject any increase in the number of flights at BAA’s London airports.”

Yesterday the London Assembly unanimously passed the motion, which calls for a ban on any increase in the number of flights operating from BAA’s London Airports, particularly Heathrow. This was after it was headlined in the Evening Standard on Tuesday that new talks are being held on increasing capacity at Heathrow. The coalition government have set up a new task force for “better not bigger” airports in the South East, following the decision to kill off the third runway.

Campaigners have rightly reacted with suspicion, as the task force may well re-open the debate over whether more flights can be squeezed out of Heathrow through operational and regulatory changes like allowing mixed-mode (flights taking off and landing on the same runway at the same time) or more night flights or other changed practices at Heathrow which BAA are presently employing, such as TED (Tactically Enhanced Departures) and TEAM (Tactically Enhanced Arrivals Mode). These two in particular are considered by many of the campaign groups to be ways of introducing mixed mode through the back door .

The make-up of the task force does not bode well for those opposed to more flights as it is dominated by big players. Most of the 13 places have gone to aviation and business interests including BAA, BA Virgin, easyJet and Ryanair. This is an issue that has not gone away and we trust that the message from the London Assembly has been picked up by government.