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Managing noise for an expanded Heathrow

We appreciate that local communities are concerned about the proposed expansion of Heathrow and its potential noise effects. Whilst noise has reduced over recent decades, we know we need to continue to make it a priority.

Where we can, we want to take the opportunities presented by expansion to share the benefits of improving aircraft technology to reduce the impacts on local communities while enabling airlines to grow.

The Government also has to make sure that “noise objectives” are set for certain airports where noise might be a problem, including Heathrow. 

We have been engaging with the Government on the development of proposals for a noise objective for Heathrow. Although it is for the Government to set the noise objective, we are consulting on a proposal for the Government to consider.

Questions – Managing noise for an expanded Heathrow

While looking through the information below please keep in mind that we are asking for your feedback on the following question, which has three parts: 

  • Do you support our proposals for a noise objective?
  • Any comments you have on our proposals for a noise objective
  • Any other comments or suggestions you have on our proposed approach to developing a
    package of noise measures for an expanded Heathrow

What is Heathrow’s draft proposal for a noise objective? 

Heathrow’s draft proposal for a noise objective is: 

To limit and, where possible, reduce the effects of noise on health and quality of life and deliver regular breaks from scheduled flights for our communities during the day and night. We need to do this whilst making sure the measures we put in place are proportionate and cost effective.

Heathrow's draft Noise Objective

A further explanation of this objective is below.

Further explanation of the draft noise objective

  • “limit and, where possible reduce the effects of noise on health and quality of life” 

For an expanded Heathrow we will meet our previous committed goal to ensure that the overall noise impacted will be limited to not exceed 2013 levels of impact which is the baseline set by 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.

This part of the objective also means that as aircraft and navigational technology improves, we will seek to reduce these effects. 

After expansion, we will update our targets over time through the noise envelope framework to ensure the objective remains relevant. The noise envelope is explained below. 

  • “deliver regular breaks from scheduled flights for our communities” 

This means providing predictable and regular scheduled breaks or reductions in aircraft noise. 

  • “during the day and night” 

This provides the assurance that we are also considering the effects of night flights and are seeking to manage the impacts from 11pm until 7am. 

  • “whilst making sure the measures we put in place are proportionate and cost effective” 

This means that every measure to manage noise is checked before it is put in place to make sure it achieves a balance: It must reduce the effects of noise, but must also be cost effective and take the local and national economic benefits of Heathrow’s operations into account.  

The need to ensure that measures are cost effective is a requirement of something known as the ‘Balanced Approach’ – this is explained further below. 

What is a noise envelope? And how will it be used to manage aircraft noise at Heathrow? 

We need a framework of limits and controls to manage noise in the future. This framework is known as a noise envelope and will include:

  • The noise management controls; 
  • The rules we will put in place to use them; 
  • The ways we will measure their effectiveness, and 
  • How we will review them as Heathrow grows. 

Our proposals for a noise envelope will be published as part of the next consultation later this year for you to provide your thoughts and feedback. 

We are forming a Noise Envelope Design Group (NEDG) to guide and steer the creation of the noise envelope. Following your feedback to our consultation in 2018, the group will be made up of a small number of technical experts representing the interests of communities, passengers, local authorities and airlines. 

We also plan to use focus groups and stakeholder engagement activities to help capture a range of views from different communities and stakeholder groups. This will involve engagement with the newly formed Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN).

The noise envelope proposals we put forward for our next consultation will reflect the feedback received from this current consultation and the engagement described above. 

What is Heathrow doing today to manage noise?

Heathrow has long been at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise. Since the early 1970s Heathrow’s noise footprint has reduced even though the number of flights has increased.

DIAGRAM IMAGE | Map showing the reduction of the 57dB (LAeq) noise contour at Heathrow in 1974 compared to 2013.

We have an existing long-term noise strategy set out in our Noise Action Plan which includes:

  • incentives for airlines to use the most modern and quietest aircraft;
  • a sound insulation scheme for the most affected houses and schools;
  • continuous improvement of noise management with our airline partners – such as the reduction in the number of late running flights;
  • continuous monitoring, reporting and management of noise to identify where improvements can be made; and
  • regular engagement with community groups and industry stakeholders to tackle noise.

How does international aviation policy play a part in managing noise?

We have to select noise management controls in accordance with the “Balanced Approach to Aircraft Noise Management”, an international policy produced by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation).

The goal of the Balanced Approach is to identify the noise-related measures that achieve maximum environmental benefit most cost-effectively, using objective and measurable criteria. The need to apply the Balanced Approach is a legal and policy requirement.

A key principle of the Balanced Approach is that non-restrictive measures (such as incentivising the use of quieter aircraft and requiring aircraft to use quieter operating measures) should be applied first, before any restrictive measures such as bans or quotas are used.

Our noise envelope will include a proposed package of measures at our next public consultation, but between this consultation and the next, we will engage with key stakeholder groups to help test and refine our options for noise management and assess them against the Balanced Approach.

We also intend to supplement this engagement with other activities such as focus groups and dialogue in our established engagement forums. More information on the Balanced Approach can be found in the information paper “Developing an approach to noise management”.

What questions are you asking for feedback on in this section of the consultation?

The Government has to make sure that “noise objectives” are set for certain airports where noise might be a problem.

As part of delivering our strategy for reducing noise we are developing a proposed “noise objective” for Heathrow. We have been engaging with the Government on the development of a noise objective for Heathrow.

In this consultation, we are asking for feedback from you on our proposals for a noise objective for Heathrow.

We are proposing a noise objective that reflects the Airports NPS but also takes account of national and international noise policy. Once set, it will guide the decisions that need to be made for Heathrow’s future operations, such as those that are set out in this consultation.

We are asking for your feedback on the following:

  • Do you support our proposals for a noise objective?
  • Any comments you have on our proposals for a noise objective
  • Any other comments or suggestions you have on our proposed approach to developing a
    package of noise measures for an expanded Heathrow: