Putney responds to Heathrow's consultation

The local Liberal Democrat team has responded to Heathrow's latest consultation on its airspace design and future operations. The proposals would enable Heathrow to add an extra 25,000 flights each year, or 68 more flights a day. The Lib Dem's response to this consultation is below.

We are concerned that some communities, including parts of Putney, could be 'overflown' for the first time since they are positioned under the proposed new flightpaths. However, despite the enormous technical detail in the consultation documents and on the consultation website, there is little clarity on exactly how Putney would be affected. The Liberal Democrats call on Heathrow to explain directly and specifically to local communities what these proposals would mean for them. 

Liberal Democrats have campaigned against Heathrow expansion, at a national level as well as through local parties, for more than 40 years. We think it is an unworkable folly which will do huge damage to the environment as well as disturb the health and well-being of residents. For example, in the 1980s the Lib Dems in Richmond won the campaign to reduce noise by getting aeroplanes to alternative between runways. The party subsequently succeeded in its fight to keep night flights to a minimum, restricting the number of movements permitted until 2017.

Heathrow consultation on airspace and future operations 

Q1.  Do you support our proposals for a noise objective? Please provide any comments you have on our proposals for a noise objective 


  • You propose to “limit…and reduce the effects of noise on health and quality of life” rather than actually reducing noise.
  • Both the proposed airspace changes and future airport expansion will result in more noise for local communities, including those across Putney.
  • Protecting communities from aviation noise should take priority over commercial interests.
  • It is concerning that some communities will be experiencing noise for the first time if this expansion plan goes through. The impact of the proposed changes should be communicated clearly, especially to communities which will be newly overflown.
  • The commitment to “regular breaks” during the day is not sufficient without a commitment to ensuring that they are predictable. In particular, local residents need longer breaks from scheduled flights
  • There should be no flight noise between 11pm and 7am. Instead of managing the impact of flights between those times, they should be eliminated all together so that residents can enjoy uninterrupted seep.
  • The objective also seeks to be “proportionate and cost effective”. Far from reassuring residents that they would receive adequate compensation, this vague term could mean no expenditure being made on noise reduction. This part of the noise objective should therefore by scrapped completely.

Q2 Would you prefer to have longer periods of respite less frequently or a shorter period of respite every day? Please tell us the reason for your preference. Please provide any comments or suggestions you have on runway and airspace alternation.

  • A shorter period of respite every day would be preferable as this would enable people to have daily rest and fresh air as they enjoy their local environment in peace – something which is conducive to health and well-being.
  • This should be part of an overall objective to limit nuisance to local people and take all possible steps to increase the hours of respite available to as many people as possible.
  • There are no proposals for monitoring respite periods or issue penalties if they are not adhered to.

Q3. Should we prefer westerly operations during the day and easterly operations at night to reduce the total number of people affected by noise? Please tell us the reasons for your answer. Should we sometimes intervene to manage the direction of arriving and departing aircraft…Please tell us the reasons for your answer. Please provide comments/suggestions on directional preference.

  • Heathrow should end night flights entirely, so these decisions do not need to be made.  

Q4.  To help inform our consideration of the options, we want to know whether you would prefer for us to:

  • Use one runway for scheduled arrivals from 5.30am (runway time 5.15am)

  • Use two runways for scheduled arrivals from 5.45am (runway time 5.30am)

 Please tell us the reasons for your preference.

  • There should be no runways in use before 6am.  
  • The consultation document provides no evidence of the “significant contribution” night flights supposedly make to the UK economy – just a vague reference to “independent studies”.  
  • People arriving from overseas might be ready for the start of the working day, but the economic impact of poor sleep on workers living near the airport should also be taken into account.  
  • The priority should be the right to a peaceful night’s sleep for people living near the airport.

Q5.  Please provide any comments or suggestions on how we should encourage the use of the quietest type of aircraft at night (outside the proposed scheduled night flight ban)? Please provide any other comments you have on night flight restrictions.

  • There should be an outright ban implemented on any aircraft landing at night with an older or noisier engine.
  • Current incentives, including quotas and landing fees are not sufficient and are no compensation for disrupted sleep and the impact that this has on people’s health and well-being.

Other comments

In addition to objecting to the specifics contained within the proposals, we object to the underlying principles of this expansion project.

The proposals would enable Heathrow to increase the number of flights by an estimated 25,000 per year. This would exacerbate the damage done to people’s health by aircraft noise and pollution and contradict the UK’s anti-climate change objectives. That is why we call for night flights to be stopped, a ban on aircraft landing at night with older or nosier engines and longer, predictable respite periods to be provided.

It is simply not sustainable to expand a hub airport in the midst of one of the most densely populated areas in the country. Instead of expanding operations and merely seeking to “minimise impacts for local communities”, we think Heathrow should be thinking again about its plans.

In addition, we urge Heathrow to explain clearly and directly to our community what would be the expected impacts of its proposals. There are some communities, including parts of Putney, that would be new ‘overflown’ and would be stung by noise, pollution and disturbance from Heathrow flights for the first time. The lack of precise flight paths in this consultation materials does not provide the information we need. 

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