Heathrow remains the UK’s only hub airport, handling 80 million passengers and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2018. Its runways have been operating at 95% capacity since 2005 and the airport has released its preferred masterplan for expansion, including a third runway to the north-west, and associated infrastructure such as terminals and road access.

A statutory consultation until 13 September gives the public the opportunity to provide feedback on Heathrow’s layout proposals and potential environmental impacts, including a proposed ultra-low emissions zone, Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge and a proposed 6.5-hour ban on night flights.

Here, we analyse some of the key proposals from Heathrow’s preferred masterplan for expansion.

Volume control: noise reduction strategies

Transport and Environment reveals that carbon pollution from flying in Europe has risen 26% in the past five years – and Heathrow is already the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK.

Environmental activists are therefore questioning the wisdom of expansion plans that will result in an additional 700 flights a day, undermining the UK’s efforts to hit its CO2 emissions targets and, according to a recent Greenpeace report, exposing 1.6 million people to “near constant” noise.

“Heathrow is already the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK.”

In addition, the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) – the policy framework for the expansion at Heathrow – includes requirements for a range of associated environmental issues, including air quality, noise, carbon emissions, water and ecological mitigation, and historic environments.

The proposed 3,500m runway is located north-west of the existing airport, meaning aircraft will be flying higher over London as they approach Heathrow to land, reducing noise for the wider region.

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In addition, the plans include noise attenuation measures such as acoustic walls, acoustic fencing or bunding designed to mitigate ground noise impacts on surrounding homes, heritage areas and parks.

Insulation from aircraft, road, rail and construction noise will also be made available to eligible local residents through three schemes, one of which proposes a £3,000 contribution to insulation work.

Heathrow 2.0: a blueprint for sustainable growth

According to the Heathrow Masterplan, Heathrow 2.0 is “a robust and realistic plan for attempting to decouple aviation growth from climate change at Heathrow and delivering our aspiration to make growth from our new runway carbon neutral”.

Launched in December 2018, it outlines action the airport authorities plan to take across four key areas, including cleaner aircraft technology, improvements to airspace and ground operations, sustainable aviation fuels, and carbon offsetting methods.

“The proposed 3,500m runway is located north-west of the existing airport, meaning aircraft will be flying higher, reducing noise.”

Specifically, Heathrow will treat environmental performance of aircraft as a key consideration of slot allocations for new flights, offer free landing fees for a year at the airport for the first commercially viable electric flight and continue to offer cheaper landing fees for cleaner and quieter aircraft.

On airspace and ground operations, Heathrow will look to modernise airspace, including potentially eliminating the practice of routine stacking for aircraft coming to land, as well as reduce emissions from aircraft on the ground through reduced taxi times, increased access to on-stand power sources, and fewer engines used while moving around the airport.

Heathrow also plans to become a leading hub for sustainable aviation fuels and develop new ways of carbon offsetting, including investment in UK peatland restoration, a pilot project of which is already under way in Lancashire.

The Heathrow Masterplan published in June outlines a new low-emission zone for the airport, meaning additional charges for those who drive a more polluting vehicle to the airport.

New horizons: future-proofing operations at Heathrow

Heathrow 2.0 also covers the airport’s sustainability strategy in the future, both in the run-up to the opening of the new runway and thereafter, across four categories: workplace practices; community involvement; quality of life of those living in the surrounding area, and positive economic impacts.

Heathrow employs 76,000 people, 16,500 of whom live within 5km of the airport, and the expansion programme claims it will create up to 180,000 further opportunities across the country, as well as 10,000 apprenticeships by 2030, living wage accreditation and an emphasis on workplace diversity.

In addition to training programmes and the creation of jobs for local people, the Masterplan – and more specifically Heathrow 2.0 – also points to engagement with local communities through various groups, as well as the more general consultation, the feedback from which will inform the final government proposal in 2020.

“Heathrow claims it will create up to 180,000 further opportunities across the country, as well as 10,000 apprenticeships by 2030.”

The preferred masterplan also takes account of other projects running before or concurrently with the Heathrow expansion programme (excluding required future changes to airspace). For example, Network Rail is promoting the Western Rail Link (or Heathrow Rail Link) project independently from Heathrow’s proposals for a third runway, and such proposals would be subject to a standalone development consent order (DCO), separate from Heathrow’s DCO.

The Heathrow Masterplan states: “Heathrow’s plans for expansion have been designed to be compatible with, although independent from, a future Western Rail Link.”

Other potential associated projects includes proposals for a Southern Rail Link and Esso’s DCO application to replace 90km of its 105km underground aviation pipeline that runs from the Fawley Refinery near Southampton to its West London terminal facility to the south of the airport.

Proposed displacements: Land use and impact on communities

The proposed expansion programme also includes the acquisition of areas of land that currently include residential, commercial and agricultural properties, and measures to mitigate the project’s impact on surrounding communities, which include discretionary property compensation policies.

“Measures to mitigate the project’s impact on surrounding communities, which include discretionary property compensation policies.”

The five interim property policies mentioned in the preferred masterplan and expanded upon in the Heathrow Consultation document cover three property zones. The Compulsory Purchase Zone (CPZ) refers to a zone within the proposed boundary of the future airport which will need to be acquired. Within this boundary are situated residential and commercial properties, and also agricultural units.

In addition, there is a discretionary compensation scheme for eligible properties in the areas close to the proposed new boundary of the airport that not required by the expansion project. This area is known as the Wider Property Offer Zone (WPOZ) and comprises only residential properties.

Beyond the CPZ, there are additional areas of land that sit within the Draft Development Consent (DCO) Limits, and which may be needed for associated infrastructure, environmental mitigation and other uses within the airport expansion project. Property owners within the above zones may be eligible for compensation under five separate schemes and/or a proposed Community Fund.