Heathrow and local air space
Following the Parliamentary decision last summer, when the overwhelming majority of MPs voted to approve the Airports National Policy Statement, which provides support for Heathrow expansion, Heathrow airport has run a couple of consultations to obtain residents views on the required changes to the use of air space.
We have featured the consultations in previous issues of e-borough Insight as the proposals may impact the borough - although the consulations are now closed you can access details on the Heathrow consultations website
We formally responded to the latest consultation. The consultation set out how increased flights using the existing two runways and the proposed expansion to a third runway could operate in practice, this includes fundamental changes to the flightpaths and the geographic areas that are most likely to be impacted.
The borough of Epsom and Ewell is featured within four ‘design envelopes’ if adopted these could result in the borough being overflown by aircraft far more frequently and at significantly lower altitudes. Currently a proportion of aircraft arriving at or taking off from Heathrow fly over the borough at a height ranging from 7,000 to 22,000 feet with the average being closer to about 12,000 feet. However, the proposals for an expanded Heathrow specify additional flights operating as low as 3,000 feet at a frequency of up to 47 flights per hour for arrivals, and 17 flights per hour for departures.
Even without an additional runway, Heathrow Airport's proposed adoption of the Independent Parallel Approach (IPA) using the existing two runways would result in 25 flights per hour operating as low as 3,000 feet between 6am to 7am and 6 flights per hour at other times. In addition to the above, the borough borders an area directly to the North where it is proposed that aircraft would be flying at even lower altitudes ie. down to just 2,000 feet.
Councillor Eber Kington, Chairman of the Council's Strategy & Resources Committee, said: “For people living, working and studying in Epsom and Ewell these proposals could translate into an estimated four to five-fold increase in noise levels in addition to the significant additional impact from the frequency of flights overhead and the impact on air quality caused by increased air pollution levels including increased carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other compounds harmful to human health and the environment.
"Given the geographic topology of the borough, and the fact that Epsom and Ewell is already the most densely populated borough in Surrey, it faces greater risks from poor air quality and already has a declared Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Therefore, significantly more residents and businesses would be impacted by the increase in air traffic and aircraft flying at significant lower altitudes in the airspace above and around the borough.”
Councillor Peter O'Donovan, Chairman of the Council's Environment Committee said, “There were 26 consultation documents published on the Heathrow consultation website during the course of January 2019, much of which were highly technical including some that were over 500 pages long. Yet the consultation process itself which started on 8 January closed on 4 March only allowed some eightweeks for those impacted to read and analyse these documents before having to respond. The scheduling of just one local event for the whole borough of Epsom and Ewell with a population of some 80,000 was far from adequate.”
“Most of the questions posed in the consultation were highly constrained and leading, implying that significant increases in flights and flights operating at lower altitudes, with greater noise and pollution levels, were acceptable and enviable outcomes. This type of approach to consultation only serves to undermine trust and confidence in the process. It is vital that local communities including local businesses have the opportunity to be fully and properly engaged in the consultation on potential airport Expansion and that their voices are heard."
Councillor Eber Kington, added, "We will continue to argue in the strongest possible terms against any proposals for airport expansion that impacts so negatively on our borough."