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Heathrow Operations

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 7 September 2010

In January 2009, the previous Government announced their decisions relating to the future of Heathrow Airport. In addition to supporting the construction of a third runway, a number of additional decisions were taken relating to operations at the airport.

This Government have already made their position clear in rejecting the case for a third runway, and opposing new runways at London’s other main airports—Gatwick and Stansted. I now wish to outline the Government’s position in relation to those additional operational decisions.

I can confirm that we remain firmly committed to retaining runway alternation and will not approve the introduction of mixed mode operations at Heathrow. This Government believe that any potential benefits mixed mode might bring to the airport are outweighed by the negative impact such operations would have on local communities.

Operating procedures known as westerly preference, early morning runway alternation and night-time rotation of easterly/westerly preference have also all brought noise mitigation benefits to local communities. This Government do not intend to revisit previous decisions taken in relation to these procedures and they will continue to operate as they do now.

The previous Government’s decisions in 2009 also included a commitment to end the Cranford agreement. This decision was based on the desire to distribute noise more fairly around the airport and extend the benefits of runway alternation to communities under the flight paths during periods of easterly winds. We support that objective and do not intend to re-open the decision. A number of infrastructure and operational changes by BAA and NATS are needed to implement this decision. The airport operator, BAA, is currently developing proposals for ending the Cranford agreement with a view to confirming the necessary works by the end of this year. I will look to BAA to ensure that proper consideration is given to appropriate mitigation and compensation measures for those likely to be affected by the proposals.