The Government’s overall policy on aviation noise is “to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise as part of a policy of sharing benefits of noise reduction with industry in support of sustainable development”. We are supportive of this policy that aims to balance the economic, social and environmental impacts of aviation.
For many years our noise strategy and approach have been structured around the ICAO Balanced Approach. Within this framework we have been at the forefront of efforts to tackle noise, consistently seeking to identify and implement good practice. Consequently, Heathrow’s noise footprint (the contour area of noise exposure shown on a map) has shrunk considerably over the past few decades.
Nevertheless, we recognise that noise remains an issue and over the past decade our approach to noise management has included working more closely with community stakeholders. This approach is underpinned by principles of stakeholder collaboration and transparency. This section describes some of the approaches and methods we currently have in place for managing noise.
Information relating to how the airport operates can be found here on our website and in the Heathrow Operations Handbook.
Our sustainability leadership plan, Heathrow 2.0, (established in 2017) sets out a clear sustainability vision and goals for Heathrow. It covers a wide range of issues and includes the following headline goals in relation to noise management.
Encourage the use of the quietest aircraft available, operated with the least noise impact practicable, within an agreed noise envelope.
Influence national and international policy and engage with local planning authorities to ensure more effective land planning processes in noise affected areas, and to improve our noise mitigation.
Continue to improve the relationship with our local community by working more transparently and collaboratively to develop noise action plans, by improving our communications, monitoring, measuring and research capability.
Although Heathrow 2.0 sets out at a high level our approach to managing noise; and our Noise Action Plan provides the finer detail and context.
Our Noise Action Plan is summarised below. It is based around the framework set out in the ICAO Balanced Approach, supplemented with our focus on improving the way in which we communicate and engage with local communities. This last element we see as pivotal in helping us understand and address key priorities for local people.
As aircraft and technology improves and planes become quieter, we will continue to work to ensure that residents share in the benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide a strong financial incentive for airlines to use the quietest planes currently available, including in the early morning period, through the use of variable landing charges.
We are committed to take full advantage of opportunities to manage airspace differently, working with local communities to identify changes that could benefit them. This will include trialling new airspace management procedure to test the concept of providing predictable periods of respite from early morning arrivals and for some of our departure routes.
We are committed to continuing to help with noise insulation and mitigation through a range of schemes. We will also continue to press the Government to provide more detailed guidance on planning around airports, and to restrict noise sensitive development in high noise areas.
In line with principles of the ICAO Balanced Approach we do not see restrictions as a first resort and are committed to developing collaborative approaches which are often quicker to implement and more effective. For example the voluntary agreement with airlines not to schedule marginally compliant aircraft. Where restrictions are in place we are focused on ensuring that they are adhered to fully, for example in our administration of the night flying restrictions.
Underpinning all of our work to tackle aircraft noise, we are committed to engaging openly and constructively with local communities to understand their concerns and to provide accessible information and an on-going dialogue.
The Noise Action Plan provides information in relation to existing noise management activities and the regulatory context within which Heathrow operates. It does not include actions to specifically address expansion or airspace change since neither of these have the necessary approvals. Although the Noise Action Plan can only relate to the impact of the current operations or permitted developments, our strategic approach is consistent whether we are considering current or future operations.