Heathrow consults public over airport expansion strategy

London Heathrow has launched an airspace and future operations consultation effort aimed at optimising the existing two runways as part of the proposed expansion of the major European hub.

Heathrow Airport’s planning conditions allow a maximum 480,000 movements per year although the airport does not achieve this maximum capacity. The intensive use of Heathrow’s runways means that any disruption to the daily schedule can result in the increased airborne holding, flight cancellations, flight diversions or late running flights which can mean aircraft arriving or taking off at night.

The UK national airport strategy as outlined in the Airports National Policy Statement expects Heathrow expansion to enable at least an additional 260,000 movements from the airport whilst including a 6.5 hour ban on scheduled night flights between 11pm and 7am – with the exact start and finish times to be determined following consultation.

As part of the expansion, the restriction of 480,000 movements will of course be removed in a phased manner before the construction and operation of the new third runway.

“This would be achieved through the increased use of the existing two runways as the first phase of expansion, through delivery of a number of operational enhancements,” it said.

Heathrow said the launch of this stage of the consultation keeps it on schedule to deliver expansion, which is part of the key trading infrastructure Britain will need to succeed post-Brexit.

The eight-week Airspace & Future Operations consultation is set to run from 8 January until 4 March and will seek feedback on several key topics:

  • Airspace change for an expanded Heathrow: the local factors we should consider in different geographic areas when designing future flight paths.
  • Airspace change to make better use of its existing two runways: the local factors it should consider in different geographic areas when designing new flight paths for some aircraft arrivals on its existing two runways.
  • Future operations for an expanded Heathrow: how it will operate three runways in the future – this includes managing noise; respite through runway and airspace alternation; directional preference and night flights.

There will be over 30 consultation events across local boroughs throughout the consultation period, where members of the public will be able to ask questions and provide their feedback.

This major public consultation follows on from the airport’s first consultation on expansion which was held from January to March 2018. Heathrow will hold a further consultation in June on its emerging plans for expansion including the new runway and associated physical infrastructure, as well as presenting options to mitigate and manage the effects of the airport’s growth.

“Delivering expansion responsibly is a key priority for Heathrow and the process of open and transparent public consultation is crucial to building the right plan for the future airport,” it said. “Heathrow is holding a multi-stage consultation process to ensure that stakeholders have the best opportunity to be involved throughout the process. This approach to consultation will help shape Heathrow’s future plans, and ensure it creates a legacy of jobs, growth and trade for a truly global Britain while delivering on its commitments to local communities.”

Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s executive director for expansion, urged local people to participate in the consultation, saying: “Heathrow’s aim is to design a sustainable, fair and more efficient future airport while connecting the UK to global growth. It is crucial that our plans maximise the benefits of expansion across the country, including for the communities closest to us – and working in partnership with our neighbours is just one way of ensuring they do so. We are committed to delivering expansion responsibly, and we encourage everyone to have their say and take part.”