At least 725,000 people are already impacted by aircraft noise from Heathrow.


Heathrow is in a noise league all of its own. According to the European Commission, at least 725,000 people are impacted by noise from the airport. Astonishingly, that is 28% of all people affected by aircraft noise right across Europe.

And the World Health Organisation says even that is an underestimate. A 3rd runway would mean another 250,000 planes a year using Heathrow, bringing the total up to 740,000. Heathrow argues that, even with this huge increase, fewer people will be impacted by aircraft noise when a 3rd runway opens because individual aircraft will be less noisy, they will be flying higher and more people will get breaks from the noise; but that is hard to believe.


Air pollution levels around Heathrow already exceed EU Legal limits.

Heathrow is one of the most polluted areas in London; indeed in the entire country. Air pollution levels already exceed the legal limits set out in the 2010 EU Air Pollution Directive. Heathrow will be required to meet these limits by the time any new runway opened in 2025-2030. Heathrow argues that, even with a quarter of a million more planes using the airport each year if a 3rd runway is built, air pollution levels will fall to below the legal limit because cleaner planes will come on-stream, there will be fewer diesel vehicles, and more electric vehicles on the surrounding roads and a greater proportion of people will come by public transport. There is little doubt that these measures will help with air pollution but, with another 250,000 flights a year using the airport if a third runway goes ahead, there can be no guarantee that they will bring it below the legal limits. To suggest otherwise requires a leap of faith not backed up by the hard evidence.

3,750 homes would need to be demolished to make way for a 3rd runway.

3750 homes would need to be demolished or rendered unliveable homes due to the noise of planes landing and departing a new third runway.  The early medieval village of Harmondsworth would be decimated and Longford wiped off the map. Harmondsworth is home to the 11th century church of St. Mary the Virgin and the Great Barn, one of the best timber-framed medieval buildings in the country. It has an unspoilt village green, two historic pubs and is also home to a vibrant community. Residents here have formed a lively campaign group, Stop Heathrow Expansion, which covers all the Heathrow villages. Individual villagers are in close contact with direct action activists as, if necessary, they intend a campaign of civil disobedience to defend their homes. The Government, therefore, is faced with the prospect of the world’s media capturing on film its attempts to bulldoze an historic village and drag residents from their homes. Has any Government got the stomach for that?

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 22.36.15.png

Millions of people are already firmly opposed to a 3rd runway at Heathrow.

Even according to the opinion polls commissioned by Heathrow itself, the opposition to the building of a new runway at Heathrow runs into millions. It is diverse and determined. There are cabinet ministers that oppose a 3rd runway, as well as numerous MPs and the Mayor of London. Despite millions spent on high-profile advertising by Heathrow, support for a 3rd runway is not growing. The polls of 10 years ago showed much the same results as the recent ones. Local residents are working with national environmental organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the direct action network Plane Stupid in a united and diverse campaign of opposition to a 3rd runway at Heathrow. They have the active support from MPs and local authorities from across the political spectrum. This diverse coalition defeated the last Labour Government’s attempt to build a 3rd runway. What will concern any Government is that this opposition refuses to go away.

The transport infrastructure required for a 3rd runway could cost the taxpayer up to £18 bn

Although Heathrow Airport will fund the new runway, it has made clear it will only pay £1.1 billion, a small proportion of the costs of the new road and rail infrastructure required for a 3rd runway. Moreover, the economic benefits of a 3rd runway look like being much less than first thought. A 3rd runway could end up costing a family of four over £400. A 3rd runway would require part of the M25 to be put in a tunnel. New rail schemes are also in the pipeline to serve Heathrow. The Airports Commission put the total cost of this associated infrastructure at over nearly £6 billion. Transport for London says it could be anything between £15 and £20 billion. Heathrow has offered to contribute only £1.1 billion. We have been told that the economic benefits of a 3rd runway could be as high as £147 billion (for the UK as a whole; spread over 60 years). Though even the Airports Commission admitted that it could be as low as £11.8 billion once the costs of noise and emissions and the price of delivering the 3rd runway are included. The Treasury is likely to think twice about backing a 3rd runway if it comes with a bill running into billions.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 22.39.20.png

A 3rd runway would increase the chance of a plane crashing on landing or departure by 60%. 

This shock finding was hidden in the final report of the Airports Commission set up by the Coalition Government to assess the need for new runways. It found the chance of a crash at a 3-runway Heathrow would be around one every 16 years, compared to roughly one in every 26 years without expansion.

The risk of a crash at Heathrow is still very small but it is worrying that the Airports Commission was not as transparent as it might have been about the increased likelihood of a crash if a 3rd runway is built, particularly in view of the fact that planes when landing at and departing from Heathrow fly over many more people than any other city in Europe. If there was a crash, there could be carnage. Does the Government want to increase the risk of that happening by giving the go-ahead to a 3rd runway?

A 3rd runway would make it realistically impossible for the UK to meet its climate targets. 

A 3rd runway would account for more climate emissions (CO), in one year than the entire economy of Kenya and would require deep cuts in CO from the rest of the economy if the Government was to meet its 2050 climate targets. The Government’s official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, say that the UK could have 55% more flights and still remain on course to cut CO from aviation to its 2005 levels by 2050. That would allow for a new runway. But it is not as simple as that. Government forecasts show that, if flights numbers grow as predicted as all UK airports, the target would only be met if demand was dampened down through a swinging carbon tax or a tough emissions trading scheme. Neither is on the horizon.