16 July 2014 at 08.36 GMT
Plans to more than double the number of night flights at Heathrow from next year have been put on ice by the government.
The number of aircraft allowed to land at the airport before 6am each day would have increased from 16 to 35 from next year under proposals outlined in the Airport Commission’s interim report in December.
In return, residents living under the flight paths would have been guaranteed respite from early morning arrivals, with a different runway used each week.
But transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced yesterday that existing restrictions on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted would be maintained for a further three years until October 2017.
“This decision will help give certainty around the night noise environment for those living near the airports, as well as ensuring operational capacity at these airports is not affected pending decisions on any new airport capacity in light of the commission’s final report,” he said
McLoughlin also postponed decisions on creating an independent aircraft noise regulator and allowing both runways at Heathrow to be used simultaneously for arrivals to reduce delays, both of which were recommended in the commission’s interim report.
In his response to the interim report, he said: “In relation to the commission’s recommendation for an Independent Aviation Noise Authority, the government believes that it would be more appropriate to consider the role for such a body alongside the commission’s final recommendations on long-term capacity.
“Similarly, we believe that any further government decisions on using the runway designated for departures and for a trial of early morning schedule smoothing at Heathrow should also be considered at that point and in the context of the commission’s recommendations on long-term capacity.”
The Airports Commission has short-listed plans for a third runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick. It is due to decide this autumn whether to short-list proposals for a new Thames estuary airport.
The commission is due to make its final recommendation next summer, shortly after the general election.
“Publication of the commission’s final report in summer 2015 will be an important event not just for the aviation industry, but for the national economy more generally,” said McLoughlin.
Gavin Hayes, director of the LET Britain Fly organisation, told the Telegraph: “Instead of bold political leadership, the government has decided to kick the can down the road for another year.
“We so desperately need a clear direction of travel and an in-principle commitment to build additional runways to boost our international connectivity and secure future jobs, growth and prosperity. Instead, we have yet more political procrastination.”
Ministers had already been heavily criticised for taking more than six months to respond to the Airports Commission’s report, with critics claiming this weekend that the delay “looks like wavering”.
Sourced from Travel Weekly