Heathrow offers to ban night flights for third runway

The west London airport has said it will prohibit scheduled flights between 11pm and 5.30am as part of a package of measures it hopes will convince ministers to allow it to expand, reports The Telegraph.

It comes almost 10 and a half months after the Government-appointed Airports Commission recommended that Heathrow be allowed to expand if it bans flights between 11.30pm and 6am.

The airport had at first been reticent to agree to a ban, as it would block lucrative flights from Asia. However The Daily Telegraph reported last month that the hub had softened its stance on the measure.

The airport also today promised to meet other restrictions that the Commission had advised as pre-conditions for a third runway.

These include a agreeing a legally binding “noise envelope”; compensating property owners who would lose their homes as a result of Heathrow expansion at a rate of 25pc above their unblighted value; spending more than £1bn to compensate local communities that face disruption from the airport; and agreeing to a Government ban on a fourth runway.

In a letter to David Cameron, the Prime Minister, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said:

“Today, I am proud to submit a comprehensive plan that meets and exceeds your demands. This is a big commitment from us, but it is the right choice for the country, local communities and jobs across Britain.

“We have acted now to let you and your government make the right choice, in the long-term interest of our country. It will enable you to choose Heathrow and secure a stronger economy and Britain’s place in the world.”

Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, a lobby group that supports Heathrow expansion, said:

“Heathrow has taken tough decisions and addressed the concerns of local residents with further restrictions on night flights and tighter control of emissions. This should remove the last rational objections to Heathrow expansion, which is essential if British businesses are to be properly connected with the emerging cities around the world.

“Heathrow has offered some significant commitments. Now Government needs to respond in kind by taking a decision before the summer ends.”

However, Heathrow faces a battle to secure Government support for its runway. There are significant concerns about the noise and air pollution a busier airport would cause. Mr Cameron put off making a decision on whether to let Heathrow expand until this summer to allow more time assess the environmental impact of another runway.

In addition, Heathrow faces competition from Gatwick, which wants the Government to allow it to build a second runway instead. Ministers are also considering an independent proposals to lengthen one of Heathrow’s existing runways.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “This is a desperate last throw from a project that has repeatedly failed. Heathrow’s air quality plans, for example, fail the most basic credibility test. You can’t promise no more cars with a third runway and at the same time to propose to expand the M25 and plan to spend millions on parking.

“Heathrow has constantly failed the environmental tests and the public and politicians won’t be fooled by yet more warm words which have been heard for decades.”