UK Politics

Noise from night flights to be cut, ministers say

Plane in front of the moon

Tighter rules on night flights will help reduce noise at three London airports, the government says.

Ministers plan to reduce the overnight noise limits at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, saying this will encourage the use of quieter planes.

But there will be no changes to the total number of overnight flights that are permitted.

The new guidelines, which will run up until 2022, have no impact on the planned expansion of Heathrow.

They have been put out to consultation with the current rules due to expire in October.

'Careful balance'

Airports are given quotas based on the total noise levels from aircraft taking off and landing there overnight over the course of a year.

Under the planned changes, Heathrow's quota will be reduced by 43% in the winter and 50% in the summer, while Gatwick's will be cut by 17% in the winter and 21% in the summer.

For Stansted, the government said the overall noise would reduce if currently exempt aircraft counted towards the limit.

Night flight restrictions apply between 23:30 and 06:00, and at Heathrow no flights are scheduled between 23:30 and 04:30.

Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said: "This government is committed to tackling the issue of aircraft noise, especially flights at night, which can be a blight for people living near airports.

"Night flights are, however, important to the economy, creating extra choice for passengers and moving freight, and we need to carefully balance the needs of local communities with the benefits these flights can bring."

John Stewart, chairman of anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: "Local residents will be disappointed that their early morning wake-up call remains the first flight at 04:30.

"We do, though, see the sense in postponing any changes until the question of a third runway is settled."

Heathrow has said it will reduce night flights if it builds a third runway.

In October, the government announced a new runway at Heathrow was its preferred option for airport expansion in the south-east of England.

But MPs have yet to vote on the final proposal, and it is unlikely that any new runway capacity would be operational before 2025.

The public consultation on night flights up until 2022 ends on 28 February.