UK Politics

Ministers seek views on night-flight noise over London

A commercial plane flying in front of the moon
Image caption The government believes that better noise controls should not disproportionately hamper the economy

The government is asking members of the public for their views on the whether current controls on night flights over the South East need to be changed.

It has mooted a range of options to reduce noise pollution around Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, including a ban on noisier planes.

Its other ideas include getting planes to land further along the runway and increasing their angle of approach.

Ministers also want those keen on more night flights to make their case.

In a consultation document, the government said: "If airport capacity is allowed to grow, it is essential that the aviation industry continues to tackle its noise impact."

The government aimed "to limit and, where possible, to reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise", it said.

But it added: "We are aware of the economic arguments for operating night flights. So, as well as looking at options for reducing the noise impact of night flights, this consultation is also an opportunity for interested parties to make the case for night flights and how they can contribute to economic growth."

Noise pollution

Transport Minister Simon Burns explained that any changes to current rules on night flying would "need to strike a fair balance between the interests of those affected by the noise disturbance and those of the airports, passengers and the UK economy".

The consultation is designed to provide the government with more data on the types of aircraft that airlines intend to use in the years ahead.

Newer models, including the A380, the A350, the B787 and the B777-300, "are quieter than those they are replacing", the document said.

A ban preventing the noisiest aircraft taking off and landing at night is "potentially feasible", but it would be "difficult" to ban noisier plane such as the Boeing 747-300 from Heathrow at night, according to the government's initial assessment.

Since fewer people live to the west of Heathrow than to the east, the government also wondered whether night-time arrivals should make their final descent from the west by default.

Landing planes part of the way down the runway cuts noise pollution for those living under flight-paths, so ministers want advice on whether flights that do not already adhere to a "displaced landing threshold", such as those coming in from the east at Heathrow and those arriving from the north-east at Stansted, should start to do so.

They are also seeking "any information on the feasibility of increasing the angle of descent into Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted".

"Though a number of technical and practical issues would first need to be addressed before a steeper angle can be introduced, the noise benefits of steeper approaches would be potentially significant," the document said.

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