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  • What is the Cranford Agreement?

    Runway alternation currently only happens on westerly operations (when aircraft come into land over London and take off towards Windsor). This is because of the legacy of the Cranford Agreement which was established in the 1950s. Cranford is a village at the eastern end of the northern runway. The agreement prevented aircraft from taking off over the village except in exceptional circumstances and applied when Heathrow was on easterly operations.

    This means that during easterly operations, most arriving aircraft will land on the northern runway, with most departures taking off from the southern runway. The agreement favoured residents of Cranford at the expense of other communities such as Windsor and southern parts of Hounslow.

    Map showing the location of Cranford in relation to Heathrow's runways.

    What is the current status of the Cranford Agreement?

    In 2009 the Government announced that the Cranford Agreement should end following consultation with local residents. Heathrow submitted a planning application to the London Borough of Hillingdon in 2013 to construct an additional taxiway at the western end of the northern runway to enable full runway alternation on easterly operations. Planning permission was granted on appeal by the Secretary of State on 2 February 2017. However, on the same day the Government published the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) which supported the expansion of Heathrow. The airfield design for an expanded Heathrow required a repositioning of the taxiway works, so a new planning application was required which we intended to pursue through the planning process for expansion.

    With the decision made at the Court of Appeal in relation to the Airports National Policy Statement on 27 February 2020, our expansion plans were subsequently paused and we began re-evaluating how to approach all of our airspace change programmes. The COVID-19 crisis then began and has had a significant impact on Heathrow - this has led to all projects going on hold unless they are safety critical. We are working through how we can begin to re-start our projects and over what time period. Airfield works are required to enable full easterly alternation and the previous planning permission granted in February 2017 for these works has now expired.

    We had intended to pursue permission for these works through the planning process for expansion. As our expansion plans are paused, we are progressing a new Airspace Change Proposal for our existing two runways to satisfy the requirements of the Government’s wider UK airspace modernisation programme.

    Respite for easterly operations remains a key commitment at Heathrow and will form part of our plans for airspace modernisation. The timescales to deliver this will therefore be subject to the airspace change process, a separate planning application for repositioning taxiways, and the time required to complete the associated ground works. We will provide a further update as soon as we have more details relating to potential timescales for the required planning application.