Noise is measured around Heathrow airport by a set of fixed and mobile monitors. To ensure effective monitoring, the Government have instructed the Civil Aviation Authority to validate the data from the monitors, and reports based on that information are published annually.
Planes are currently flying at too low an altitude, which is causing excessive noise pollution over homes and schools in my constituency. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss how the new noise commission will be able to prevent medically unsafe noise levels from aircraft flying over residential areas?
I am well aware of the concerns of my hon. Friend’s constituents and others, particularly about aircraft such as the A380 as it comes in on the flightpath into Heathrow airport. Obviously we need to get this right, and I hope that the airspace modernisation programme will help in that regard. We are pressing ahead with the establishment of an independent commission on civil aviation noise, and consulting on the powers that it should have. My hon. Friend has had a number of sensible thoughts about how we might address the problem, and I should be happy to meet her to discuss it.
Thousands of my constituents will live under an extremely loud noise environment if and when runway 3 goes ahead, but they do not at present, and I welcome the formation of the new community campaign group Brentford and Hounslow Stop Heathrow Expansion. Will the Government insist that if runway 3 goes ahead, Heathrow must match Gatwick’s offer to pay all council tax payers within the 57 dBA contour £1,000 per annum in compensation?
I do not think that it is a question of comparison between airports. What we have at Heathrow is a world-beating package of compensation for those affected, combined with a rapid change in aircraft technology which means that the new generation of aircraft coming on stream are much quieter than any we have seen before. Alongside that are our plans for the modernisation of airspace. We also need to ensure that the angles of approach to Heathrow are the best possible, in order to minimise the impact on local residents. I believe that, overall, we are taking the right approach to what I know is a difficult issue for the hon. Lady’s constituents and others. We have tried to get the balance right.
Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the best ways of reducing congestion and noise pollution around Heathrow would be better use of regional airports, and does he agree that a reduction in air passenger duty for regional airports would be a good incentive?
I am a strong supporter of our regional airports. There are some great success stories, including what I suspect is my hon. Friend’s pet regional local airport, Birmingham: it has been enormously successful in recent years. However, I fear that my hon. Friend will have to make representations about air passenger duty to the Chancellor during Treasury questions.
Can the Secretary of State explain why the consultation on the draft national policy statement promoted improved certainty of respite from aircraft noise from an expanded Heathrow, but failed to mention that that respite would be reduced from eight hours a day to just six, or even four?
We have tried to set out the impact of the change in broad terms. It is certainly the case that in comparison with Gatwick and its fully mixed-mode operation, Heathrow, across three runways, is able to offer respite in a way that was not assumed by the Airports Commission in its consideration of both proposals. The impact on neighbouring communities is one factor among many that the commission considered, as did the Government.