The Government has postponed for a second time the consultation on its controversial plans to end runway alternation in West London. The Department has admitted that ‘ministers have yet to reach final decisions’ on the consultation, which was originally expected in March and then scheduled for October.
Department of Transport official David Gray told the Heathrow Area Consultative Committee that the Government is still assessing the impacts on noise and air pollution of ending runway alternation.
Gray added that the Department for Transport is carrying out work to assess future air pollution and noise levels should a third runway be given the go-ahead. He added that it was possible that consultation on a third runway might take place at the same time as consultation on runway alternation.
David Gray confirmed that a Public Inquiry would be required if any of the proposals resulted in the cap of 480,000 flights permitted at Heathrow in a year being exceeded. The Department for Transport has admitted that a 3rd runway would result in 650,000 flights a year and any plans to end runway alternation would mean at least 515,000 flights per annum. The Civil Aviation Authority calculated that if runway alternation was ended and a third runway was built over 700,000 flights a year would use the airport.
John Stewart, Chair of residents’ group HACAN ClearSkies, said, “The Government is under strong pressure from the airlines to end runway alternation. The fact that it has now twice postponed the consultation twice suggests that the noise and air pollution impacts of doing away with runway alternation are much worse than it thought. Residents are only too well aware how dreadful it will be to have planes coming over all day long. It will be like living underneath the M25”.
— from HACAN ClearSkies