We want the area surrounding Heathrow to be a great place to live. Our proximity to London is a great advantage for flyers,but also means we are located close to many homes and local communities. We recognise that our local impact is significant, and we want to make sure it’s as positive as possible.
We have been working to reduce our negative impact for many years. For example, Heathrow is one of the world’s leading airports in noise management: even though the number of flights has increased significantly since the 1970s, Heathrow’s noise footprint has continuously reduced. Thanks to technological improvements and improvements in public transport, monitoring stations in the immediate vicinity of Heathrow meet air quality standards.
While we recognise this progress, we also see the need for a step-change in how we improve local quality of life. Heathrow 2.0 is our plan for achieving this. It is grounded in the principle that we can only make a real difference by listening and talking to local people, and understanding their needs. That will allow us to build the long-term productive relationships that help local communities thrive and improve quality of life for all.
Our Respite for Residents objective outlines how we will work with local groups to manage our noise impact. For example, the airspace around London is still operating based on designs developed in the 1950’s. By reforming airspace in consultation with local residents, we can explore options like alternating flight paths, reducing the effects of noise and providing increased predictability of relief. We will also find new ways to incentivise airlines to use the quietest planes and work with them to take off and land in ways that minimise noise at key times. Heathrow operates at close to capacity most of the time; the majority of days are ‘routine’, while some are ‘disrupted’. During disrupted days, we are allowed special dispensations to help faster recovery to normal operation and some of these - such as late flights - have a greater noise impact.
Air quality in our cities is a major focus in the UK and around the world. We have reduced ground-based NOx emissions from airport activity by 16% over 5 years between 2008 -2013. Air quality monitors right next to the airport already meet air quality standards, but those next to the M4 motorway a couple of kilometres away do not. This illustrates that road traffic rather than aircraft is the main contributor to local air pollution. Although most of the traffic on the motorways around Heathrow is not related to the airport (and is already improving thanks to the government and Mayor’s focus on reducing pollution), we still have a role to play.
We know many factors affect quality of life, and have learned that one of the most important is being able to influence decisions made in your community. Working collaboratively with local people and partners, we will enhance the area around Heathrow for the benefit of everyone who lives there. This long-term project is intended to improve quality of life by providing better employment and community facilities, transport and green spaces, for people and wildlife.