Hammersmith and Fulham residents living under the Heathrow flight path are being warned they face increased noise from aircraft because of new runway trials.
The airport's operator, BAA, is planning trials allowing the use of both runways simultaneously as part of the Government’s work on exploring how to make airports "‘better, not bigger".
At the moment the airport uses a runway alternation system which means using one runway for arrivals and the other for departures. Their use is switched halfway through the day at 3pm to give residents a predictable period of relief from aircraft noise.
At certain times BAA is already allowed to use both runways simultaneously for arrivals, mainly to clear backlogs of flights.
However, under the trials – which will start next month and happen in two phases – the threshold for triggering dual use of the runways will be lowered.
Both runways will be used when planes face a 10 minute wait to land or take off or if there is more widespread disruption to the airport’s flight schedules, for example due to bad weather. The average delay for flights is 12 minutes at Heathrow, so there could be a significant increase in the number of arrivals flights out of the usual runway alternation pattern.
BAA is sending leaflets to around 150,000 homes under the flight paths and agreed to extend the delivery to local people following pressure from Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
The first trial will run from November 1 to February 29, with a second scheduled for July 1 to September 30 next year, coinciding with the Olympics.
BAA says the trials will allow it to explore how the runways can be used more efficiently and claims there will be no increase in flights in or out of Heathrow – with the cap remaining at 480,000 aircraft movements a year.
However, Cllr Nick Botterill, H&F Council Deputy Leader, says: " This relaxing of the rules for these trials could have a significant impact on borough residents and it is unacceptable that local people have not been adequately informed by BAA.
" Residents, particularly south of Lillie Road, face the prospect of increased noise and disruption and the least BAA should have done is contact people directly to let them know."
John Stewart, chairman of the HACAN Clearskies campaign says: " For many people in Hammersmith & Fulham living under the flight path the aircraft noise is only bearable because of the half day respite. The concern is that, by taking away this break from the noise of the planes, these trials will seriously worsen the quality of life for local residents."
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October 20, 2011