London

Heathrow to rank airlines on noise pollution

Crowds building in Barnes ahead of anti-expansion rally
Image caption Residents complained about noise levels at a protest last month

Bosses at London's Heathrow Airport are to rank airlines according to how noisy their aircraft are as part of a plan to try to make the area quieter.

Heathrow chiefs also want to increase fines for airlines that break noise limits and try new plane departure routes and steeper approaches.

Plans also include establishing a new noise insulation scheme for homes and offices around Heathrow.

A Fly Quiet programme is to begin later this year.

Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN) welcomed the programme but said residents were still opposed to the prospect of expanding the airport.

'Matter of contention'

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said: "Heathrow is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and, as a result, even though the number of flights has almost doubled since the 1970s, fewer people are affected by noise."

He said the airport would continue to work with airlines, traffic control company Nats, policy makers and residents to reduce noise further while "safeguarding the vital connectivity and economic growth that Heathrow provides".

A report published by the Independent Transport Commission on Wednesday on the future of Britain's aviation infrastructure highlighted the fact that the area around Heathrow is more densely populated than Stansted or Gatwick.

It said, at the moment, the noisiest aircraft may not be scheduled to land or take off during the "night period" (23:00 to 07:00) and during the "night quota period" (23:30 to 06:00) aircraft movements are limited both by number and by a noise quota.

It added: "The noise from these early-morning, long-haul arrivals has long been a matter of contention for households around Heathrow."

Last month, at a protest against the possibility of expanding Heathrow, west London residents spoke of the noise from early-morning flights.

John Stewart, chairman of HACAN, said: "These measures are welcome and will improve the noise climate for residents.

"But all the good work could be undone if a third runway was built and the huge increase in flight numbers would almost certainly outweigh the benefits these measures will bring."

Councillor Colin Ellar, deputy leader of Hounslow Council, said: "It looks as though Heathrow is beginning to listen to the council and residents who have said loudly and clearly in our consultation that they want a better not bigger Heathrow."

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