Heathrow expansion

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Aircraft noise

We encourage residents to log every noise complaint and concern with Heathrow Airport:

Tel: 0800 344 844.
Email: noise_complaints@heathrow.com
Website: http://www.heathrowairport.com/noise/help/make-an-enquiry

Please also send copies of your complaints and correspondences to eryans@wandsworth.gov.uk so we can develop our evidence base.

Track flights

You can also track flights over your area on Heathrow's new Web Trak system. The online tracking tool shows you where planes are flying in relation to where you live or work. For security reasons there is a 24-48 hour delay on the flights shown.

Contact HACAN

You may also want to contact the campaign group Heathrow Association for Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN). The Council and HACAN have worked together on noise issues for many years. You can reach them on 020 8876 0455 or visit the HACAN website.

Runway alternation

The airport has two main east to west runways. At any one time one runway is used for departures and the other for arrivals. Operations are reversed at around 3pm each day. The pattern is also changed weekly so that the runway used for departures in the mornings one week is used for arrivals in the following week.

This alternation provides considerable relief for residents living close to the airport. Wandsworth residents receive less benefit as an aircraft will still need to cross the borough when lining up to the northern runway.

The system works well when the wind is from the west. Westerly operations mean that landing aircrafts approach Heathrow from the east passing over central London. Departing aircrafts fly out over Windsor.

When the wind is from the east landing aircraft approaches from over Windsor. A departing aircraft will always use the southern runway and depart to the east. Some of these go out directly over Tooting.

Areas affected

People living in parts of Battersea, Putney and central Wandsworth are affected by noise from aircraft landing at Heathrow.

There are flights arriving at Heathrow from 4am to 11.30pm. This includes the main 'night' period from 4am to 6am when a daily average of 16 planes are allowed to land. During the 'daytime' period (6am to 11.30pm) there are around 1,300 landings and take-offs at Heathrow - more than 70 an hour on average.

Aircraft landing on the southern runway will normally come in over areas like Wandsworth and Richmond. Aircraft arriving on the northern runway will approach over areas like Hammersmith and Ealing.

You can find BAA's rota for runway alternation at www.heathrowairport.com

If you are planning an outdoor event which could be affected by aircraft noise, you can use this programme as a guide, although the schedules may be adjusted because of weather conditions.

How it works

The practice of runway alternation gives residents under the flight path some relief during the day.

When planes are landing over central London - around 70 per cent of the time - they are routed to one of the two Heathrow runways. 

In normal circumstances this means planes land on one runway for the first part of the day (from 7am to 3pm) and the other for the latter period from 3pm to 11.30pm.

This 3pm turnaround is managed by a weekly rota:

  • During week 1 planes land on the southern runway up to 3pm and the northern runway during the rest of the day
  • During week 2 planes land on the northern runway up to 3pm and the southern runway during the rest of the day.

There is no runway alternation from 6am-7am (when the airport is very busy), or when planes land from the east over Windsor.

Cutting back on runway alternation

The Government's consultation on expanding Heathrow includes proposals for abandoning runway alternation during the day. This would mean that during the busiest periods aircraft would use both runways in parallel for landings. This already happens between 6am and 7am.

In these circumstances planes approaching the airport from the east would descend over the Wandsworth and Richmond areas at the same time as the Hammersmith and Ealing areas. In other words, for extra periods during the day, whether you live under the southern runway flight path or the northern - there would be no let-up from noise.

Night flights

The Council wants a complete ban on early morning arrivals before 6am - officially known as 'night flights'. It has repeatedly challenged the current arrangements in the courts. These permit around 16 flights a day to arrive before 6am with the first descending over Wandsworth from around 4.30am

News update

Councils win High Court challenge

Wandsworth and other Councils succeeded in the High Court (March 2010) in overturning previous proposals for a third runway at Heathrow.

The current Government has set up an independent commission to examine the UK's airport capacity needs. Wandsworth and other Councils will be demonstrating to the commission that the environmental impacts that made a third runway untenable are the same today.

The ruling by Lord Justice Carnwath centred on economic and climate change impacts.

The case was brought by a coalition of local Councils, environmental organisations and residents groups. The Councils were all members of the 2M Group and are concerned at the prospect of increased noise, worsening air pollution and added road and rail congestion.

The Councils involved were Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Richmond upon Thames, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead. The residents groups were NOTRAG and HACAN and the environmental groups were World Wildlife Fund UK, Campaign to Protect Rural England, and Greenpeace.

The challenge was also supported by Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Kensington and Chelsea Council, Transport for London and the Mayor of London.

Related documents

2M response to Airports Commission consultation

Airport expansion poll results

Assessing the work of the Airports Commission Summary Booklet Oct 2015

Davies must test airport claims

Four borough response to NPS re-consultation

Heathrow expansion and aircraft noise

Heathrow noise map 2014

High speed rail

Impacts of Heathrow Expansion - 2M Group June 2014

The 2m Group

Wandsworth Council's response to the Airports Commission consultation