Category Archives: Heathrow

Heathrow’s expansion is lawful says the Supreme Court … but it is still a Pipe Dream

From the Richmond Heathrow Campaign,
Wednesday 16th December 2020:

The Supreme Court today upheld Heathrow’s appeal and concluded that the Transport Secretary was entitled in 2018 to ignore the UK’s climate change commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and that the decision to progress Heathrow’s expansion to the planning stage is lawful.

There were always major gaps in the arguments for Heathrow’s third runway and the world has changed so much since 2018, not least because of Covid-19. Climate change is the greatest risk to aviation growth and last week the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget emphasised no net increase in UK airport capacity and that an increase at one airport means a reduction elsewhere – in other words levelling down the regions. Bio-fuels and carbon removal from the atmosphere are only partial solutions and demand will have to be constrained to achieve aviation’s net zero carbon.

If Heathrow still wants a 3rd runway it will have to restart the already delayed planning process with diminishing chance of success. The pandemic has highlighted Heathrow’s lack of financial resilience and the improbability of raising finance for a very expensive expansion in the face of growth constrained by climate risk. Heathrow should not waste billions of pounds on ill-judged expansion. Shareholders are unlikely to want to dilute a steady cash flow with the poor return from risky expansion without tax payer support.

Heathrow should give up its impossible ambition and focus on making Heathrow a better airport and re-enforcing London as the best served city in the world with its five airports.

Better surface access, more passengers per flight and replacement of international-to-international transfer passengers with UK passengers would be a good start. Reducing carbon, air pollution and noise, including no night flights, are crucial. It would be of great benefit to the UK generally for the recovery and subsequent expansion of air traffic to be shared across UK airports, instead of concentrated at Heathrow, thereby levelling up regional jobs and economies and better serving demand and world-wide access.

More than two million people, including Richmond and Kew residents, are exposed to Heathrow’s aircraft noise and attendant health risk but worse still they have experienced the threat of expansion for over a decade. Heathrow and the government should abandon a further decade of expansion and flight path uncertainty and focus on reducing existing noise misery. Residents now know how much better life can be without aircraft noise.

One certainty is the opposition to Heathrow’s expansion from community groups, NGOs and local councils is stronger today than ever with the environment playing a much bigger part in society’s goals. Richmond Heathrow Campaign will continue to ensure that Heathrow’s expansion remains a pipe dream.

Richmond Heathrow Campaign represents three amenity groups in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames: The Richmond Society, The Friends of Richmond Green, and the Kew Society, which together have over 2000 members.

Heathrow Expansion Public Meeting on Tuesday 23rd July

7:30pm at Duke Street Church, Duke Street, Richmond, TW9 1DH

Heathrow Airport is consulting on its “preferred masterplan” for expansion of the airport and the environmental impact. The plans include the construction of a third runway, modernised use of airspace and additional flights before the runway opens.

Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) is organising a public meeting so that residents, and in particular those from Kew and Richmond, can learn about the plans and the consultation.

Key topics:

  • Heathrow’s expanded operations
  • Noise
  • Air pollution from surface traffic and aircraft
  • Impact on climate change

The panel:

  • Chair, Professor Ian Bruce, CBE
  • Nigel Milton, Director of Communications, Heathrow Airport Limited
  • Cllr Martin Elengorn, Richmond Council, Chair of the Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sports Services Committee
  • Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director, Aviation Environment Federation
  • Peter Willan, Chair, Richmond Heathrow Campaign

Please email questions in advance to There will also be an opportunity to ask questions on the night.

Please pass on this information to your friends and neighbours – we look forward to seeing you at the event.

Peter Willan
Chair, Richmond Heathrow Campaign

Richmond Heathrow Campaign represents three amenity groups in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames: The Richmond Society, The Friends of Richmond Green, and the Kew Society, which together have over 2000 members.

Heathrow Consultation – Deadline 4th March

Heathrow Airport has issued a consultation on its operations and associated airspace design. It presents several proposals that would increase aircraft noise over Richmond significantly.

Link to RHC guidance on responding to the consultationThe Richmond Heathrow Campaign, on which the Richmond Society is represented, has issued a guide to the consultation and suggestions as to how to respond, which can be accessed here. The consultation expires this coming Monday 4 March. 

While the issues are technical and the consultation not always straightforward to follow, the potential noise impact on Richmond  is substantial. We therefore urge you to respond.

Additionally, Richmond’s MP Zac Goldsmith will chair a public meeting on the consultation at 7:00 pm this Wednesday 27 February at Duke Street Church, Richmond.  There are more details about this meeting here.  

Heathrow Airspace Design – Summer 2018 Update

At the start of this year, Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) issued two consultations, covering Airport Expansion and the Principles of Airspace Design.  These are part of the process that Heathrow must go through to gain approval for expansion and for airspace changes that are needed for it.  Additionally, the principles for airspace changes will apply even if a third runway is not built.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign responded to both consultations in March and our responses can be found on our website.  Our response to the Principles of Airspace Design was particularly critical of the apparent lack of strategy and the vagueness of Heathrow’s proposals. Heathrow have since provided further information on their proposals, to which the Richmond Heathrow Campaign responded in July.

The threats to Richmond are

(i) The potential for flights to take off overhead

(ii) Less hours of respite from the noise of planes coming in to land

(iii) A higher proportion of heavy, noisier aircraft approaching the airport overhead

(iv) A potential increase in night noise

The opportunities include noise reductions arising from improved technology and changed flight operations.

Our response covered Heathrow’s Noise Objectives and Airspace Design Principles, and also recommended an overall decision framework.

Noise Objectives

Heathrow’s Airspace principles currently have three noise objectives:

(a) Limit and where possible reduce the number of people in the UK adversely affected by noise

(b) Share benefits from future noise improvements between the aviation industry and local communities

(c) Strike a fair balance between the negative aspects of noise and the positive economic impacts of flights

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign believes there should be the following two crucial updates to these objectives.

1. Amend Noise Objective (a) to incorporate WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines, establishing their legal status, and a UK strategy and timetable for meeting them.  In particular, these guidelines recommend that a fixed interval of 8 hours is a minimal choice for night protection from the effects of noise.

2. Add a fourth Community Noise Objective: Where there is a reduction in overall noise the benefit should be applied to those already most affected and where there is an increase in overall noise the dis-benefit should be applied to those already least affected.

Airspace Design Principles

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s response also made 13 further recommendations on airspace design principles. These cover safety, flight dispersion, flight frequency, noise respite, flight path separation, flight path concentration and performance based navigation (PBN), less noisy aircraft fleet, ICAO* land use requirements, runway length and parallel operation, ICAO* flight operational requirements, London’s parks, night noise, and altitude based priorities.

* ICAO is the acronym for the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Integrated Decision Framework

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign also recommended that there should be an integrated decision framework to bring together design principles and stakeholder interests in order to minimise noise impact the share the costs and benefits of noise mitigation both rationally and fairly.


We continue to play a leading part in the Heathrow Community Noise Forum (HCNF) to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on Heathrow, and to minimise or eliminate the impact of any changes to airspace design.

A more detailed summary of our response, the full response, and a presentation of the response to HCNF can be found here on our website.


Heathrow Third Runway – the fight goes on

Picture of British Airways over Richmond on approach path to HeathrowThe Richmond Heathrow Campaign has continued to work tirelessly on your behalf to oppose the proposals to build a Third Runway at Heathrow. Of necessity our work over the past few years has focussed on responding to Government consultations and lobbying those parts of government involved in the process. In 2018 alone so far, we have submitted seven responses to consultations amounting to over 150 pages of detailed research (link).

Much of our work has aimed to highlight the weakness of the economic and commercial cases for Heathrow. Is the runway financeable, or will we taxpayers be expected to pay up eventually? Is it justifiable, given that according to recent DfT estimates barely any of its activity would be for business passengers and much would cannibalise growth from other UK airports or be wasted in international transfers?  That these ideas are now entering mainstream discussion is at least partly due to our efforts.

On Monday night, the House of Commons voted in favour of Heathrow expansion.  This vote was not unexpected, and in many respects all it does is to initiate the stage where judicial reviews will be sought and popular action planned.  It’s also worth noting that although the Labour Party allowed a free vote, it is now officially opposed to expansion (link).  The SNP, which had originally stated they would vote in favour, abstained.  Time is against Heathrow expansion as more decision makers become aware of the poor case for it.  Our campaign continues.

Richmond Heathrow Campaign communiqué
following the House of Commons Vote on Monday 27 June 2018

It is disappointing that Parliament voted last night in favour of the Government’s National Policy Statement on Heathrow expansion. All the evidence shows a third runway at Heathrow to be a costly mistake, bringing no benefit for UK business connectivity, perpetuating an outdated model of “hub” airports rather than anticipating demand for point-to-point travel, and ignoring the effects on public health from noise and air pollution for the substantial numbers of people living under the flight paths and near roads leading to the airport.

There is a high chance the scheme will not be delivered as Heathrow and the Government face the reality of the financial costs, the impacts on international climate change obligations and the failure to show how legal requirements on air quality can be met

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) will continue to work with Local Councils, the London Mayor and others to support the legal challenges which will start now. We base our objections to expansion at Heathrow on the clear evidence against the decision contained in the Government’s own documents which we have examined in great detail. This has been a flawed consultation, failing to look at the facts.

We will also be continuing to look at how Heathrow and the Government can be held to account for promises made to the local community on noise reduction. Heathrow has already formally applied to the Civil Aviation Authority to change the airspace to accommodate more flights. The decisions may take several years and we are actively engaged in the process, having already lodged an objection concerning Heathrow’s lack of proper engagement with local communities and the way flight path decisions are being made.

Whilst most commentators have been focussing on the decision to expand Heathrow, few have noted the significant impact that new flight paths currently being considered will have on thousands of Londoners, with or without Heathrow expansion. Some areas will be overflown for the first time, some will have increased noise and a few less. Decisions on the location of flight paths will be fraught. Communities exposed to arrivals on the southern runway will probably see the 8 hours of daily respite cut in half.

We will continue our fight for a night time ban on flights, no increase in flights in the “shoulder periods” (23.00-23.30 and 06.00-07.00), no loss of respite periods, no increase in noise for those already exposed to noise and a cap on the number of flights and passengers, adequate compensation/mitigation from Heathrow to communities affected by noise and no increase in noise and other pollutants affecting the Royal Botanic Gardens which could threaten its status as a World Heritage Site. We will also continue to campaign for noise limits to be placed on a legal footing, based on World Health Organisation standards so that the public has better protection from the effects of noise on health.

The next stage in the decision process (apart from a judicial review by local authorities and the flight path design) is for Heathrow to prepare a detailed business plan and submit it to the UK planning inspectorate. We expect to participate and strongly object during the course of the planning process over the next two years.


RHC represents three amenity groups in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames: The Richmond Society, The Friends of Richmond Green, and the Kew Society, which together have over 2000 members. The members of our amenity groups are adversely affected by noise from Heathrow Airport’s flight paths, poor air quality and road and rail congestion in west London. We acknowledge Heathrow’s contribution to the UK economy and seek constructive engagement in pursuit of a better Heathrow. We are an active participant in the Heathrow Community Noise Forum.

The RHC has a substantial body of evidence based reports on its website here:

Richmond Heathrow Campaign responds to the Government’s Heathrow announcement

Yesterday’s Government announcement supporting a 3rd runway at Heathrow is still only a single step towards a goal that may never be delivered. The final free vote in parliament will not be taken until October 2017 or later. In the mean time the proposal faces several obstacles:

1. The Government’s failure to explain how a 3rd runway will be paid for without raising landing charges and without massive public subsidy.

2. The impact of the 2008 Climate Change Act, which can only result in Heathrow diverting growth from parts of the UK where it is needed to the south-east where it is not.

3. Legal challenges from local councils (including Richmond) and environmental groups.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s view is that this decision is political and not rational. The history of the Roskill Commission in the early 1970s shows that a Government runway decision can be changed, and then never implemented. We will continue to campaign to expose the absence of a factual foundation for today’s runway decision with a view to the proposed new runway sharing the same fate.

We are now on Twitter and will be building up a series of infographics over coming weeks. If you are on Twitter then please follow us, and please retweet us to your followers if you like what we are saying.

You can see our full position on Heathrow and all our submissions to the Davies Commission on our website.

For further papers covering the different aspects of Heathrow expansion please visit RHC Facts.

Peter Willan, Chair of the Richmond Heathrow Campaign writes:

On Tuesday 25 October, Chris Grayling (Secretary of State for Transport) announced with enthusiasm the Government’s support for a 3rd runway at Heathrow and that the scheme will now be taken forward. The process involves a draft National Policy Statement in the New Year followed by consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and a vote and then designation at which point a detailed planning application can be made.

The Government states it has relied on the recommendation of the Airports Commission in July 2015 and the positive outcome of further work on two unresolved issues of air quality and carbon emissions. Tribute was paid to the quality and professionalism of the Commission’s report.

Emphasis is given to the value of expansion to the local and wider economy with increased employment and international and domestic connectivity. The Statement repeatedly referred to Britain being open for business. In spite of the substantial costs, the Government says it is confident a plan will be delivered that keeps landing charges close to current levels. At this stage it is not clear whether the Government has ruled out any financial support for surface access or anything else.

The Government claims to recognise environmental costs and to that end – an expectation to end night flights before 6am and new legally binding noise targets. It notes the airport has pledged £700 million for noise mitigation. Meeting air quality legal requirements will be made a planning condition. Compensation for those communities affected will be supported by up to £2.6 billion (paid by Heathrow). We should be wary of any predictions decisions or conditions offered, given the history of broken promises by Government. No mention has been made of a 4th runway but then any promise not to expand further is almost certainly worthless.

Richmond Heathrow Campaign has consistently argued against the need for any new runways, given the restrictions flowing from Climate Change Act 2008 on carbon emissions that in effect limit the number of passengers to around 380 million per annum by 2050. We set out in our fact sheets at the negative impact on the UK economy of a 3rd runway under these circumstances and based on the Airports Commission’s evidence. Growth in total UK passenger numbers is reduced and Heathrow diverts demand from the rest of the UK, thus damaging employment and local economies around the UK. Growth of inbound tourism and long-haul business trips is reduced thus reducing economic benefits and the number of UK overseas destinations remains unchanged. These are all facts, along with many others, the Government has seemingly ignored. The Commission’s recommendation just does not stand up to scrutiny of its own facts.

The decision in our view is not rational and is founded on politics pressured by Heathrow and business lobbying. The Government has missed the opportunity to invest in making London’s five airports and their access better and allowing the rest of the UK to expand. Instead, concentration and overheating in the southeast will stifle competition. The Government and Heathrow are now engaged in a huge gamble that the expansion can be delivered, achieve the estimated benefits and satisfy the environmental and other constraints. We doubt success will be achieved. We will do what we can to ensure the scheme never gets off the ground.

Significantly, four local authorities including, Richmond, along with Greenpeace will almost certainly launch a legal challenge. The scheme is likely to be frustrated and delayed for several years and may never take off. We will continue the challenge with the support of our local amenity groups we represent – the Richmond Society, the Kew Society and the Friends of Richmond Green, which together have over 2,000 members. Not to do so would allow our community to be blighted with the potential of additional flights over Richmond. Our neighbour, Heathrow, has poured salt on the wound by declaring it will seek an early expansion of flights before the runway is built. We encourage people to follow us on twitter and support the campaign.

Further Reading from the Evening Standard . . .

Heathrow expansion is ‘wrong decision for London and Britain’
Sadiq Khan, October 2016

Expanding Heathrow will be a monumental blight on west London
Simon Jenkins, October 2016

Third Heathrow runway is ‘an outrageous vanity project’ says BA boss Willie Walsh
July 2015

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign responds to the Davies Commission

Proposed Heathrow Third Runway location, to the north-west of the two existing runways

Proposed Heathrow Third Runway location, to the north-west of the two existing runways

On 1st July the Airports Commission published its recommendation to government proposing a third runway northwest of the existing northern runway (the NWR option). The Commission favoured Heathrow on economic grounds but did not rule out Gatwick. It is now the government’s decision to take. While disappointed, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign (RHC) believes a 3rd runway is undeliverable on economic and environmental grounds and we will actively challenge the recommendation and any decision by government to expand Heathrow.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign wrote to all MPs enclosing a flyer (see for this) a fortnight before the Airports Commission issued its final report.  This covered the UK economy, financial deliverability, carbon emissions, air quality, noise, local economy, surface access and safety. The facts remain largely unchanged following the Commission’s recommendation.

We have significant doubts about the benefits to the wider UK economy, the material increase in the number of long-haul business passenger seats, the benefit of the large number of international transfer passengers using Heathrow as a hub and the cost/benefit analysis. These are four main reasons the Commission chose Heathrow.

And of course there are the arguments against Heathrow expansion.  These include unsustainable CO2 emissions, unlawful air pollution levels, substantial additional noise for much of west London, and severe public transport and traffic congestion.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign continues to work to maximise influence on the government’s future decision, in conjunction with HACAN and with a new organisation: Coalition against Heathrow Expansion.

For more details, see the Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s website.

Heathrow Fact Sheets

rhcfactsflyer-thumbnailThe Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies is due to submit its final report shortly.  On Wednesday 17th June, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign launched a set of factsheets about Heathrow expansion.  In summarising facts and evidence they expose several myths that have not been questioned before.

There are eight factsheets.  There is also a summary of all eight that can be found on the homepage of a new website,  We have sent this to every MP, and also distributed it to journalists at the launch of Zac Goldsmith MP’s New Heathrow Flight Path Campaign.

In short, the facts are:

(1) The UK Economy: the Commission’s own figures show that Heathrow expansion would not add significantly to the UK economy or add further connectivity to the UK as a whole.  Instead it would artificially stoke overheating of the South-East at the expense of the rest of the UK.

(2) Deliverability: Heathrow expansion may require £54 billion or more of funding.  State aid would be difficult to justify given the spare capacity at other airports and the prevalence at Heathrow of transfers and leisure passengers from the UK, which provide little benefit to the UK economy.

(3) Carbon: It is very likely that Heathrow airport’s growth will be constrained even more than currently predicted in the Airports Commission’s modelling by the impact of carbon emissions, rendering a third runway uneconomic.

(4) Air Quality: Given that existing airport operations already result in a breach of legal air pollution limits, it seems unlikely that a third runway could be built while remaining within the law.

(5) Noise: Heathrow expansion is likely to expose several hundred thousand Londoners to aircraft noise for the first time and the uncertainty of flight paths may blight parts of London for several years.

(6) Local Economy: The local economy will grow whether or not Heathrow expands.  Moreover, it has not yet been shown how sufficient housing could be provided to support Heathrow expansion.

(7) Surface Access: Transport for London (TfL) has calculated that an investment of up to £20 billion will be needed to support a third runway at Heathrow. The consequences of inadequate investment would be poor travelling experience on public transport and increased resort to road transport, generating more air pollution and traffic congestion.

(8) Safety: Proposals for steeper flight paths on landing and for curved approaches to reduce noise raise new safety concerns. The multi-use of a single extended runway for take-off and landing has not been tested at any airport in the world, let alone one as busy as Heathrow.

Over the coming weeks we will be socialising these messages with journalists and decision-makers.  If you are able to help in the process, please contact us.