"Heathrow cannot be the answer"
The aviation lobby is making a lot of noise but any government that seeks to reopen the Heathrow expansion issue will have to find answers to the environmental constraints that grounded the previous administration’s plans.
What the various cheerleaders for a third (and fourth?) Heathrow runway overlook is that the noise, air quality and surface access concerns that were the basis of the successful local authority-led High Court action in 2010 are just as severe today as they were two years ago.
The Transport Secretary continues to rule out both a third runway and mixed mode for very good reasons. The current aviation policy framework notes that Heathrow's noise impact easily exceeds the combined impact of all other hub airports in Western Europe. It also recognises the value that residents under the flight path place on the present alternation of runway operations which give them respite from overhead noise for at least eight hours a day.
Whether short or long term, mixed mode is just not a credible option. You simply can't set out to make air quality worse in a location that is already recording NO2 levels above EU limits and expect to get away with it. This was why the last government backed off.
The real showstopper for full mixed mode however is the safety risk. With dual arrival and departure streams on each runway a late aborted landing would potentially end up climbing into the path of a previous departure. There is no quick fix for this apart from a major redesign of the south east England airspace - which is years away and now needs to be coordinated with Eurocontrol – the European air safety body.
Whatever the case for additional capacity in the South East, Heathrow cannot be the answer.
Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia, Leader of Richmond Council Lord True, Leader of Hounslow Council Jagdish Sharma and Leader of Hillingdon Council Ray Piddifoot on behalf of the 2M group of local authorities
August 1, 2012