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Aircraft Noise: Heathrow

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

6. What plans his Department has to reduce the number of people affected by aircraft noise near Heathrow airport. (904815)

11. What plans his Department has to reduce the number of people affected by aircraft noise near Heathrow airport. (904820)

The Government set noise controls at Heathrow airport, including total noise limits and aircraft movement limits for night flights. These controls, in conjunction with stricter aircraft noise standards negotiated by the UK at the international level, have resulted in a long-term reduction in the number of people affected by aircraft noise near the airport.

A freedom of information request revealed Government analysis that expects nearly a million households to face increased daytime noise if Heathrow is allowed to build a third runway. Will the Secretary of State visit my constituents, tens of thousands of whom will face significantly worse noise if the third runway goes ahead, and for whom no amount of noise insulation will be acceptable?

I have been in the hon. Lady’s constituency on many occasions and heard the noise there, and I am very pleased that, over the last 20 years, we have seen a steady reduction in aircraft noise. That is expected to continue as a new generation of aircraft appear in greater numbers. The projections show that, as we enter the 2030s with that change in aircraft fleet, we do not expect an overall noise impact on people around the airport. Nor do we expect an increase in the number of people within the 54 dB bracket, precisely because a new generation of lower-noise aircraft—they will also be lower-emission and lower-fuel consuming aircraft—will mean a quieter airport generally.

The aviation national policy statement states that about 93,000 more people will be significantly affected by noise if the third runway goes ahead, yet Civil Aviation Authority figures indicate that more than 2 million people will be affected. Will the Government acknowledge that vast disparity in numbers, and will they update the aviation national policy statement?

Before the aviation national policy statement is brought to the House, it will be updated off the back of work done by the Transport Committee and the public consultations that have taken place—it will be a refreshed document when it comes before the House. The impact of noise on residents around Heathrow depends on an assessment of the rate of arrival of that new generation of aircraft. As we get into the 2030s, we expect no overall increase in the number of people in the 54 dB noise barrier because of the arrival of those new aircraft. There may be a short period in the mid-2020s when there is a small increase, depending on the airport’s rate of growth and the development of the aircraft fleet, but any such increase will be a short-term one.

When will we get a new train service between Reading and Heathrow? That will help to reduce noise and get Welsh travellers to the airport.

Western rail access to Heathrow is part of our plans for control period 6, and I expect construction to start between 2019 and 2024. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I recently invited the private sector to bring forward proposals for southern access as well, as part of a land and surface access package that will bring substantial increases to the capacity of rail links to Heathrow airport.

These problems are not unique to Heathrow; they also affect areas around Gatwick, which has a lower level of ambient noise. Will the Secretary of State assure the House that any further lessons learned about how we reduce noise at Heathrow can be applied more generally?

They can be, and the point I did not make in my response to the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) is that we are in the process of modernising the use of airspace in this country. I hope and believe that that will allow us to manage much more carefully respite for airports, and flight paths into and out of airports, and to do the best we can to minimise the impact of aviation on communities. There can be no situation where there is no impact, but I want us to do our best to ensure that that impact is as carefully managed and minimised as possible.