The London Assembly has urged Heathrow Airport to provide an update on its proposed expansion plans and to ensure they go further with their work to mitigate noise pollution from the airport.

If undertaken, the original expansion proposals would have meant up to 1.6 million people living along the proposed flight paths closest to the airport would have likely been overflown with noise levels above 65 decibels, with 11 million in total affected by potential expansion-related flightpaths.

The expansion was also projected to add 3 to 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year.

Concerns have also been raised regarding Heathrow’s current noise mitigation measures, with a seven per cent increase in 2023’s quarter-one complaints compared to 2022.

The London Assembly Environment Committee has today written to Heathrow Airport with three recommendations regarding their proposed expansion, urging them to provide an update on their expansion plans following their internal review and to go further in their work to mitigate noise pollution from the airport.

The recommendations are:

Heathrow should update the Committee on the timeline for its internal review of expansion options and how environmental and health factors are being considered.

Heathrow Airport’s solutions and mitigations for reducing the impact of noise are not ambitious enough. Solutions should include an accelerated process for new noise insulation schemes with broader eligibility criteria and greater compliance with the Quiet Night Charter to reduce late-running flights.

Heathrow should provide greater clarity over its airspace modernisation plans by regularly publishing accessible summaries and technical updates. Where these plans relate to the potential concentration of flight paths, they should work to minimise noise levels and the cumulative impacts of flights related to all airports that affect those in and around London.

Environmental noise has been recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the second largest environmental health risk in Western Europe, behind air quality. Prolonged exposure to environmental noise has been shown to have harmful effects on mental and physical health, including impaired cognitive development in children, tinnitus, sleep disturbance, and even heart disease.

Becky Coffin, director of communities and sustainability at Heathrow Airport, explained in an Environment Committee meeting in February that:

“Our expansion plans remain paused. We are at the moment conducting an internal review and consulting with stakeholders on what our options regarding expansion may be. We cannot say any more about what will happen next until we have completed that process.”

Zack Polanski AM, chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee throughout the investigation, said:

“Heathrow’s proposed expansion could cause significant noise pollution for Londoners, and Heathrow must provide clarity over their plans.

“We welcome Heathrow’s internal review of the plans given the impact the proposals could have. However, there is a desperate need for the airport to provide an update on this review and how it may have affected the recommendations.

“Local people need to know what the status is of the expansion given the significant impact the proposals would have on their health and wellbeing.

“I urge Heathrow to consider the recommendations within our letter to provide clarity over the expansion plans going forward.”

Photo by Sebastian Grochowicz on Unsplash

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