Let residents judge extra hour sleep plan
Published: Wednesday 27th June 12
Residents living under the Heathrow flightpath should be given the chance to say whether they would trade an extra hour’s sleep for additional flights later in the morning.
Currently an average of 16 flights day are permitted to land at Heathrow before 0600. This means the first arrivals of the day are heard over south and west London from around 0430.
The opportunity for a later start of day comes as BAA prepares to test the impact on the airport of moving back the first scheduled arrivals to after 0500. The experiment will begin in November as part of the second phase of the airport's operational freedoms trials.
Over the period of the trials the airport would be able to allow an equivalent number of flights currently due to arrive after 0600 to come in from 0530. The change is designed to improve resilience in the busy 0600-0700 period and prevent delays building up throughout the day.
It is the first time that the industry has conceded that it can alter the arrival times of the early morning flights.
Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said:
"The airport is already planning to put arrivals back to 0500. They would only need to move another three scheduled flights to give us an 0530 start of day. Provided this covered all scheduled arrivals and other early running flights then this would give residents an extra hour's sleep.
"The council has consistently called for a complete ban before 0600. It would be for local people to judge whether a ban until 0530 would be a step in the right direction. They would also have to weigh this against the additional flights that would come in from 0530 to 0600.
"We know how much people resent being woken up by these early morning arrivals. We want the Government to look very closely at the impact of the trials and the effect of putting these flights back on the quality of life of local people. Ministers could consult on any changes in advance of the next night flights scheme which is due to take effect from 2014."
Richmond Council leader Lord True said "Sleep loss is a serious issue for our residents living under the flight paths. They will welcome any moves to quieten more of the night, however small the gains might be, without losing sight of the need for a longer night's sleep for all. I support this move to explore how people will feel about moving flights to after 05:30."
Around three flights a day are scheduled to land before 0500 with a further three before 0530. The rest land in the period to 0600.
The second phase of the OF trials will run from July to March 2013. The early morning changes will start from November. Initially it is expected that all flights scheduled to arrive before 0500 will be put back to at least 0510. Only if all these early flights can be deferred will it be possible for the airport to bring flights forward to the 0530-0600 period.
During the first phase of the operational freedoms trials Wandsworth Council asked local residents to report the noise impacts of the flight pattern changes.
A total of 589 reports were received over the four month trial period. Around half were complaints about being kept awake by early morning arrival flights.
The first stage of the operational freedoms tests took place between the beginning of November 2012 and then end of February 2012.
During this period BAA was permitted to use both runways at the same time for arrivals when incoming flights face a delay of ten minutes or more.
There is no increase in the overall number of movements at the airport as a result of the trial.
Under the established rules Heathrow is only permitted to use one runway for take offs and one for landing. Their use is switched everyday at 3pm to give residents under the flightpath a regular break from overhead planes.
Wandsworth and other local councils have fought for years for a complete ban on arrivals before 0600. In 2008 Wandsworth and Richmond councils went to the High Court in a bid get some of the noisier aircraft banned.
The Government is expected to begin consulting later this year on proposed night flying arrangements for the period from 2014 to 2019.
The council's report on the first phase of the operational freedoms trials will be considered at the July 4 meeting of the Finance and Corporate Resources OSC.