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Heathrow has long been at the forefront of international efforts to tackle air noise. We are proud of the fact that despite the number of aircraft movements at the airport going up, our noise footprint has shrunk considerably over the past few decades.

Despite these efforts we know that noise remains an issue. We are committed to addressing it and to reduce the effect of noise on local communities. We will work in partnership with our airlines to reduce noise further.

Our committed goal is to expand Heathrow while affecting fewer people with noise. Our submission to the Airports Commission showed how a combination of quieter planes, quieter airport design and quieter operations makes this possible.

Expansion provides an opportunity to continue to improve our current approach to noise and introduce new measures that can only be delivered with expansion. These measures will ensure that we design and operate the airport to manage and reduce noise exposure.

Key to the development of these measures will be feedback we receive from communities affected by aircraft noise and other stakeholders including airlines, air traffic control (NATS) and local authorities.

Our approach to noise is based on the International Civil Aviation Organisation balanced approach of reducing noise at source (quieter planes); land use planning and management (quieter airport design and noise insulation); noise abatement operating procedures (quieter operations) and operating restrictions (for example, a ban on scheduled night flights). We also consider community engagement to be a significant element of our approach.

Respite through runway alternation

We know that predictable periods of respite are much valued by local communities. Providing predictable respite from noise is, therefore, at the heart of our expansion scheme. With three runways we will be able to adopt an alternation pattern that provides predictable levels of respite for local communities on both easterly and westerly operations.

Respite through the design of flightpaths is addressed in our separate Airspace Principles Consultation.

Noise envelope

The noise envelope will be designed in a way that balances growth with noise reduction and gives certainty to local people. The noise envelope framework that we currently propose is illustrated here:

We are proposing to form a Noise Envelope Design Group (NEDG) which will include community and stakeholder representatives who we currently work with as part of the Community Noise Forum, along with recognised noise experts. This is consistent with the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority guidance on Noise Envelopes.

The NEDG will provide a forum for exploring ideas, developing plans and where possible reaching agreement amongst stakeholders for defining and implementing a noise envelope.

We envisage that the group would include representation from technical, industry and community groups. We will also explore how the NEDG will work alongside the Community Engagement Board.

There will also be extensive stakeholder engagement on the proposed noise envelope measures and performance targets. It is expected that the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise as proposed by the revised draft ANPS will provide independent guidance on our noise envelope proposals.

What is a noise envelope?

A Noise Envelope is a framework for the sustainable management and control of the effects of noise that balances growth and noise reduction and provides certainty about how noise will be addressed for the long term.

Quieter airport design

Aircraft noise is one of the factors we are taking into account in designing the airport layout. In particular this means delivering an airfield design that can deliver predictable respite, minimises ground noise and supports our overall aim of “fewer people being affected by aircraft noise than today”.

Did you know? Noise

Since the early 1970s, when the jet age began, both the area and the number of people within Heathrow’s noise footprint have fallen around tenfold.

Noise insulation

As part of the Airports Commission process we developed a noise insulation scheme that goes above and beyond statutory requirements and was regarded by the Government as “world class”.

Our insulation scheme comprises two zones for residential properties and a community buildings scheme:

Inner Zone

Following a third party assessment, full acoustic insulation for residential properties within 60dB LAeq (16hr) expanded airport noise contour.

Outer Zone

A contribution of up to £3,000 for noise insulation for residential properties within the 57dB LAeq (16hr) or the annual average 55dB Lden noise contours of an expanded airport.

Community Buildings

Noise insulation and ventilation for community buildings within the average 60dB LAeq (16hr) noise contour.

Ban on scheduled night flights

We are committed to implementing a ban on scheduled night flights for a period of six and a half hours, at a time to be determined between 11pm and 7am. Our preference is for this to be from 11pm to 5.30am, based on our assessment of the economic and environmental effects of late night and early morning flights. Currently flights scheduled to arrive between 4.30am-6am are allowed to land from 4.30am. The proposed ban would be an extension above the voluntary arrangements in place today.

We believe this approach would be fairer for all local communities as it gives a more equitable distribution of flights to those living under the departure routes as well as those living under the arrivals routes by extending the ban into the late night as well as the early morning instead of only the early morning.

We will also continue to incentivise the use of the quietest aircraft at night through our landing charges, charging less for quieter aircraft.