A third runway at Heathrow remains “paused” but could still go ahead following a internal review, the airport’s chiefs have said.
The status of the expansion project was clarified by senior officials from Heathrow, who were quizzed by the London Assembly’s environment committee earlier this week.
The committee raised concerns from residents about whether noise levels coming from Heathrow could be reduced, and whether the airport’s expansion plans were still on the table.
Tony Devenish, Conservative Assembly Member for West Central London, accused Heathrow of being “consistently opaque” about its expansion plans.
He asked whether the project to build a third runway at the airport was “back on”, after it was “paused” during the COVID pandemic.
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Becky Coffin, Heathrow’s Director of Communities and Sustainability, replied: “It is paused and under internal review, and our [outgoing] chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has stated that point publicly as well.”
Coffin defended the airport’s record when it came to transparency, saying: “We are continually striving to be clearer and provide more accessible information and we are also trying to do that in different ways to reach a wider range of people.”
Devenish, who represents the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster, also asked whether the impact of night flights will be reduced.
He said: “The written evidence from Heathrow submitted for the last meeting mentions ‘a package of measures to reduce the effects of night flights between 11pm and 7am’ – that must be number one in terms of ‘Top of the Pops’ of what our residents are concerned about. What measures are included in this package?”
Coffin said the airport was working with airlines to “go above and beyond” the government’s restrictions around when flights can depart and arrive.
She added that there were “additional options as part of the expansion proposals that would go further”.
Rick Norman, Heathrow’s Head of Noise Strategy, said those measures would include a move towards quieter aircraft, along with limits on the number and type of aircraft that can operate at particular times.
Pressed by Liberal Democrat AM Hina Bokhari on whether the expansion would result in more noise overall, Norman said: “If you’re building a new runway, from where the existing runways are, clearly there are going to be people, within that overall impact, that will be negatively impacted by that.
“I’m not going to hide away from that fact, but the overall picture is one of reduction.”
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