Heathrow’s £100mn a year noise challenge

Published: Friday 28th March 14

Heathrow would have to shell out £100m every year to households around the airport if it is to match Gatwick’s new noise compensation offer.

The two airports are competing for permission to build the country’s next new runway. A commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies is weighing up their case.

If Gatwick is picked the airport has pledged to pay £1,000 per annum to existing homes inside a 57dB noise contour around the airport.

For a two runway Gatwick this is expected to cover up to 4,100 homes, costing £4.1mn per annum.

If a two runway Heathrow offered them same terms the noise contour would cover 100,000 homes at a cost of £100mn per annum. This is because Heathrow is located in the most densely populated part of the country.

Adding a third runway could increase Heathrow’s annual bill by around 20 per cent.

Gatwick also offers up to 2,000 qualifying local households a one-off grant of up to £3,000 towards noise insulation. If Heathrow was to match the terms of this scheme it could cost the airport a further £210mn.

Cllr Ravi Govindia leader of Wandsworth Council said Gatwick’s offer had raised the bar for the promoters of Heathrow expansion:

“What’s good for residents under the Gatwick flightpath is good for those of us who endure the noise from Heathrow’s operations.

“We wouldn’t accept the 57dB threshold and we are not saying that £1,000 or a higher figure can properly compensate for the sleep disruption and damage to health caused by aircraft noise. But what this does begin to show is what the true bill might look like for expansion at Heathrow if it was properly costed.

“Sir Howard Davies and his aviation commission made a serious mistake in shortlisting Heathrow as a potential new runway site without considering these costs.  It's their job to make fair comparisons between competing airports. Davies can't do this if he continues to dismiss the real noise impact of an airport set in the most densely populated part of the country.

“Once you weigh the real environmental costs – and those for improved surface access - against the claimed benefits of an additional runway, Heathrow’s business case begins to look very shaky.”

The Government currently uses the 57dB metric as the noise threshold for serious community annoyance. But the survey evidence on which this is based is now more than 30 years out of date.

The EU uses a 55dB contour. This measure would include 330,000 households around a two runway Heathrow costing £330mn a year in compensation. With a third runway this bill would increase further.

The independent ANASE update report published earlier this year suggests that serious community annoyance from noise may start as low as 50 decibels. If adopted by the Government this would mean around 1mn households being included within a new Heathrow noise contour.

Wandsworth Council has consistently argued that the 57dB is an inadequate noise measure that fails to recognise the severe impacts on residents living further away from the airport.

According to the 57dB benchmark Putney, Wandsworth Town and Battersea are not affected by noise from Heathrow – something the council and local residents strongly dispute.

To let Sir Howard Davies know your views email Howard.Davies@airports.gsi.gov.uk

To let the Transport Secretary know your views email

To report noise complaints to Heathrow email noise_complaints@heathrow.com or call 0800 344 844

To sign up for Wandsworth Council’s e-newsletter on Heathrow email aviation@wandsworth.gov.uk with ‘subscribe’ in the subject box.

More information is online at


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Recent comments

Having an international airport to the west of London is the least environmentally friendly and the least safe option. No other European city is blighted by this insanity. With 51 forced (emergency) landings at LHR last year plus 2200 flights each day the current amount of traffic over London is an appalling accident waiting to happen. And to all those people who try to perpetuate the myth that Battersea isn't affected by night flights or aircraft noise generally - specious nonsense. We are woken at 04.30 most mornings. Gatwick expansion gets our vote!
mary ryan

28 March 2014