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Cranford agreement

Update 12 July 2017

What is the Cranford Agreement?

The Cranford Agreement was established in the 1950s. It prevented planes from taking off over the village of Cranford, which is at the eastern end of the northern runway. The Cranford Agreement only applies when Heathrow is on easterly operations.

The agreement favours residents of Cranford at the expense of other communities such as Windsor and southern parts of Hounslow. Implementing runway alternation on easterly operations will allow us to apply full runway alternation which is fairer to local residents overall.


In 2010, the Coalition Government confirmed that the Cranford Agreement should be removed and that Heathrow should take the necessary steps to implement easterly alternation as soon as possible to ensure a fairer distribution of noise when operating on easterlies.

Heathrow submitted its original planning application to the London Borough of Hillingdon in 2013, for the necessary taxi works to enable runway alternation on easterly operations.

In 2014 the London Borough of Hillingdon refused our planning application, which we appealed. Following a public inquiry in 2015, our planning appeal against the London Borough of Hillingdon’s refusal was eventually allowed on the same date that the Government published the draft Airports National Policy Statement (2nd February 2017).

What have we been doing since then?

Over the last few months we have been assessing whether the taxiway works approved at appeal fit with the airfield design for an expanded Heathrow. The work has indicated the potential need to reposition the taxiway works further to the east.

Moving the location of the taxiway works will change the noise impacts from departing aircraft. Taken together, this will require a new planning application to account for these changes.

After careful consideration we have taken the decision to pursue this work through the planning process for expansion – the Development Consent Order (DCO).

This decision has been taken because we believe that there would be little practical difference in the timescales for delivery of easterly alternation, whether we pursued this through a new local planning application or through the DCO for expansion.

Reasons for this:

  • We will not have sufficient certainty of the airfield design for a third runway until summer 2018 following public consultation. We therefore would not be able to submit a new planning application until we have that certainty in order to avoid further changes being made.
  • If we were to pursue the application through the local planning route, our view is that Hillingdon is likely to refuse the planning application again. This will require another protracted planning appeal. It is unlikely that alternation would be implemented in this scenario until 2022.
  • We plan to submit our DCO in 2019 with consent expected in 2021. We would plan to move ahead with this project as quickly as possible following DCO consent and the approval of the necessary airspace changes. Our view is that runway alternation could be introduced in 2022/23.

We understand that for some communities, the delay to the implementation of runway alternation on easterly operations is disappointing. However, having considered our options we feel this is the most appropriate way to take this forward.

We can assure local communities that we remain fully committed to providing runway alternation.


1. Why do you need to build new taxiways in order to deliver alternation on easterly operations?

In order to provide runway alternation on easterly operations we need to redesign the airfield infrastructure. Because Heathrow’s taxiway infrastructure has been developed in the context of the Cranford Agreement, new access taxiways are necessary before the northern runway can be fully used for departures on easterly operations. Without this new infrastructure, the full schedule of departing aircraft would not be able to access the northern runway on time. Building new access taxiways requires planning approval.

2. What date do you see easterly alternation being put in place by pursuing it through the DCO?

If planning consent for expansion is granted in 2021, we would prioritise this work. Construction of the taxiways will take around 2 years. During that time, we will also need to go through the necessary airspace change process. Assuming the airspace changes were approved, we would expect the introduction of runway alternation in late 2022 or early 2023.

3. What if the DCO is delayed?

If there is any significant delay to the DCO process, we will review this decision.

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