Gentleman’s agreement could soon be terminal
Public inquiry into Heathrow deal on flights over Cranford
A THREE-week public inquiry has begun over plans which would spell the end of a 60-year-old gentlemen’s agreement at Heathrow.
The Cranford Agreement was a verbal contract made in 1952, which prevented easterly take-offs from the airport’s northern runway.
It was scrapped by the Labour government in 2009, which argued it was unfair on other communities which bore the brunt of aircraft noise as a result.
However, there have been only a relatively small number of departures over Cranford since then as new taxiways are needed to enable more such flights.
Heathrow’s application to create those taxiways was last year rejected by members of Hillingdon Council’s major applications planning committee, who raised concerns the extra flights would increase air pollution in the area.
A public inquiry into the application was launched by the Planning Inspectorate after Heathrow appealed against the council’s ruling. It began on Tuesday, June 2 at Hillingdon Civic Centre and is scheduled to run until Friday, June 19.
Heathrow says enabling scheduled departures over Cranford would allow for more reliable runway alternation, giving residents in areas like Windsor, Hounslow and Feltham more respite from aircraft noise.
At present, one runway is used for landings and the other for departures, with the roles switching each afternoon to guarantee residents a predictable noise-free period.
However, because planes have to take off and land into the wind, that means when they are on easterly operations all planes currently have to land on the northern runway and take off from the southern runway. Heathrow’s sustainability and environment director Matt Gorman said: “While our airport is working at reducing noise levels overall around the airport, we know from our conversations with local residents that predictable periods of respite are extremely important.
“Allowing us to modernise our taxiway system would allow us to operate full runway alternation and in line with Government policy spread noise more fairly, so that Windsor and other communities around the airport can receive respite.” Ending the Cranford Agreement in practice would mean roughly 35,000 extra flights a year over the area but no increase in the overall 480,000 flights a year at the airport. Gurpal Virdi, an independent councillor for Cranford, has criticised Heathrow’s plans in his written submission to the public inquiry, in which he accuses the airport of “destroying the Cranford community”.
He claims ending the agreement in practice would create extra noise and air pollution, which would impair the health and education of Cranford residents. He also accuses Heathrow of wearing residents down with repeated consultations, the results of which he says are “usually misrepresented”.