The January 2016 AirportWatch news bulletin is now at  AirportWatch bulletin for January 2016

When the last bulletin went out, at the start of December, everyone was expecting some relatively clear indication from the Government, some time before Christmas, of whether it might back a runway at Heathrow - in accordance with the Airports Commission recommendation.

Government delays runway decision till "summer":  When the announcement did finally come, on the 10th December, it was just an announcement of a delay - till at least summer 2016. Many speculated that the delay, taking a decision to after the London Mayoral election in May, was a convenient way for David Cameron to deal with the difficulty of Zac Goldsmith
In reality, the Government was faced with unequivocal advice from its own Environmental Audit Committee (report on 1st December) making it clear that a Heathrow runway would have to meet strict conditions on air pollution, carbon emissions, noise and night flights, and the funding of infrastructure. So many issues - many, but not all, environmental - remain very far from being solved, making any rapid decision on a runway intensely vulnerable to legal challenge.

The government statement on 10th December said it confirms it supports the building of a new runway in the south east, to add capacity by 2030 (earlier airports claimed they could have a runway built by 2025). The decision on location is “subject to further consideration on environmental impacts and the best possible mitigation measures.” All three short listed schemes will continue to be considered. So Gatwick is still included, giving the government bargaining power against Heathrow.

It is thought that Heathrow had been pretty sure they would be given some sort of "green light" for their runway - and so now find they have to keep on with the PR and the lobbying for a lot longer.  Gatwick has also got to find new things to say, and new ways to attempt to impress.  It all seems a bit like Groundhog Day ....
New runway and health implications: One area on which the Airports Commission was not felt to have done sufficient work has been health implications of airport expansion. Though there has been quite a lot of work on impacts of aircraft noise on sleep disturbance, and effects of noise on cardiovascular health, it had not been pulled together.  The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation), commissioned by HACAN, recently published a new study looking at all the various research studies, and making recommendations. 

The AEF report calls for the Government to act now to reduce the health burden from aircraft noise.  They say long-term noise targets are needed to protect health, and all noise policies should be reviewed in the light of these targets.

The summary of the report 

The full report (58 pages) 

A new runway should only be permitted if the noise burdens are reduced. The report states: “The Government needs to clearly demonstrate that it has a plan to ensure that a new runway would be compatible with health based noise targets before proceeding. In addition, a full health impact assessment should be carried out to make it clear what the health burden of a new runway would be, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups.”    
So rather than the Government consenting to a runway at X or Y, and then looking at the health implications afterwards, in the planning process - the health studies need to be done beforehand, and inform the government decision.   Details 

Anti-Heathrow runway protests:  While Heathrow and Gatwick continue to slug it out, there has been plenty of colourful and imaginative campaigning.  HACAN and a range of groups opposed to Heathrow hired an Advan which toured around London and affected parts of the Home Counties, spreading its visible "No 3rd Runway" message for 3 days, with an accompaniment of loud plane noise on one of the days - along part of the length of the arrival flight path of the new runway. The van stopped at numerous locations, to be greeted by local campaigners, councillors and MPs.   Photo of the Advan as it passed Parliament.  More at 

Not content with that, HACAN and many fellow organisations marked the first day Parliament sat in January by planting 2,000 small black "No 3rd Runway" paper planes, in Victoria Gardens near Parliament.  They symbolised the approximately 2,000 planes per day that would fly into Heathrow, with a 3rd runway - right across London on about 70% of the time.  About 800 "planes" were planted by SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), to represent the approximate number of houses that would be demolished for a runway.   More at

Flight path change process - and aircraft noise:  The complaints about unacceptable levels of plane noise, and flight paths that appear to have been altered, continue - with people in areas affected by Heathrow, Gatwick and Edinburgh airports all very dissatisfied with the way airspace change is being handled. A report on how the CAA handles airspace change decision-making and management, by Helios, was very critical. Helios said saying there has been a lack of transparency by the CAA, and there is a problem in the CAA being both judge and jury.  There are several items on these issues in the bulletin.

Protests against planned Nantes airport:  The fight to prevent a new airport being built at Nantes, at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, in Western France, continues. The remaining people living on the proposed site face eviction soon, with a court hearing on the 12th January.  An astounding 20,000 (yes - twenty thousand) people from all across France attended a mass mobilisation on 9th January, to oppose the evictions and the building of the new airport. The issue has become totemic for environmental and social justice campaigners over the whole country. More at

Omission of aviation from Paris agreement:  The Paris Climate talks achieved some things, but even the very weak draft paragraph mentioning inclusion of international aviation and shipping were removed from the final agreement. The omission of these two high CO2 sectors puts the effectiveness of the overall agreement in question.  More at

"Gatwick Obviously NOT" going to the Appeal Court:   There was good news that GON won their appeal to be allowed to make a Judicial Review (JR) against the CAA due to flight path changes with no consultation. This will be heard in the Appeal Court in order to "'obtain an authoritative ruling on the meaning of relevant provisions, which govern similar arrangements at airports other than Gatwick". 
So, in the January 2016 bulletin