Go to content

Managing Heathrow's growth within environmental limits

We have always been clear that expansion is not a choice between the economy and environment – it must deliver for both. There are no questions in this consultation relating to the topic areas below but we have outlined our current thinking and will be asking for your feedback in our June 2019 consultation.

How are we proposing to manage Heathrow’s growth within environmental limits?

We propose to put legally binding obligations in place to ensure the growth of the airport is only allowed to take place within the boundaries of the environmental criteria set out in the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) (The Airports NPS sets out Government policy for the expansion of Heathrow and the construction of a new north-west runway):

Aircraft Noise – the overall impact of aircraft noise must be limited and, where possible, lower than 2013 noise levels.

Air Quality – expansion must not affect the UK’s ability to comply with its legal air quality obligations.

Carbon – expansion must not have a material impact on the ability of the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets.

Surface Access –

  • Ensure that by 2030 half of all passengers travelling to the airport will do so by public and sustainable forms of transport such as rail or coach, rather than by car.
  • Reduce all staff car trips by 25% by 2030, and 50% by 2040; this is everyone working at the airport rather than those just employed directly by Heathrow.
  • Heathrow must ‘strive to meet’ its pledge to ensure that airport related traffic is no greater than today – although this is not expressed in the Airports NPS as an absolute limit, we propose to treat it as a commitment.

The work undertaken for the Government and the Airports Commission in the run up to the designation of the Airports NPS concluded that an expanded Heathrow could operate within these criteria – and our own work has reached the same finding.

To remove any doubt and uncertainty and to minimise the impacts of our growth on local communities, we are proposing legally binding obligations to ensure that growth of the airport’s operations can only take place if it respects each of these environmental limits.

Heathrow will only operate and grow within agreed environmental limits. In order to grow, Heathrow would be incentivised to drive innovation and environmental best practice.

We will set out detailed proposals for how future growth will be managed as part of our Airport Expansion consultation later this year. We will be seeking feedback on these proposals and we want local communities to have their say on our plans.

For more information on Heathrow’s existing sustainability leadership strategy – please visit our Heathrow 2.0 website.

Early growth

As a first phase of our expansion plans, we are proposing to make increased use of our existing two runways, once approval for the physical expansion of Heathrow has been granted.

Currently, Heathrow is limited to 480,000 air transport movements (ATMs) each year.

In September 2016 we published proposals for the release of additional capacity before the third runway is operational. This would be an early phase of the lifting of the current ATM cap which would be necessary as part of our Development Consent Order (DCO) application for expansion.

Releasing capacity using our existing two runways could generate significant economic benefits as the first phase of expansion. This capacity – up to 25,000 additional ATMs each year – could be released on a phased basis soon after planning consent is granted, so that the benefits of expansion can begin to be delivered well before the third runway is complete.

At this stage of consultation, we are not in a position to consult on the specific proposals for early growth.

Our ability to bring forward early growth is dependent upon a range of factors, such as changes in the current airfield infrastructure, revised regulation of airlines slots, as well as other matters on which we are seeking feedback as part of this consultation.

In particular, we are seeking feedback on:

  • The noise objective which is agreed for Heathrow;
  • The establishment of required airspace changes relating to the two existing runways, for Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA); and,
  • The detailed terms of a ban on scheduled night flights at Heathrow.

Early growth - what happens next

These matters set out in the three bullet points under “Early growth” – are the subject of this current consultation and, once we have considered your feedback, we will be able to test the capacity for and implications of early growth. We will need to consider implications for terminal and stand capacity, environmental impacts, and how additional passengers would be accommodated in our surface access strategy. Our intention is to bring forward proposals for early growth at our next stage of consultation in June 2019.

We are planning to submit our proposals for early growth as part of our Development Consent Order (DCO) application. These proposals will be examined by the Planning Inspectorate and will need to be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Respond to this consultation

There are no questions on this topic in the consultation.

Completing a response to the other topics in this consultation is easy using our online form. We estimate that the time required to complete all of the questions is approximately 45 minutes, however, there is no requirement to respond to all of the topics.