Government scraps Cranford Agreement … finally!
Put aside the two consultations announced yesterday by the Government on airport expansion and airspace policy. Far more important news was quietly released later in the day with a more immediate impact on local residents around Heathrow – and for those in Colnbrook it is very good news indeed.
Yesterday really was a good day to bury difficult news. With the Brexit strategy dominating colum inches, the draft National Policy Statement on Heathrow expansion or the review of airspace was never going to get much coverage. But, later in the day, the Government bolted another key announcement onto the same Department of Transport press release – once, which, on any other day, would have been a significant story in its own right.
It has finally decided to tear up the Cranford Agreement.
Officially, Gordon Brown’s government scrapped the 60 year old verbal agreement to the people of Cranford in 2009, but a lack of taxiways to support full runway alternation did not exist and Heathrow was obliged to lodge a planning application with Hillingdon Borough Council. Hillingdon, naturally, felt obliged to refuse. A three week public inquiry was held in June 2015 but the decision never came, despite the inspector’s report being concluded over 18 months ago.
THE APPEAL. On 17 May 2013 a planning application was submitted by Heathrow Airport Limited for the creation of a new hold area at the western end of the northern runway, the construction of new access and exit taxiways and the construction of a five metre high acoustic noise barrier to the south of Longford Village. The application was put to the London Borough of Hillingdon which refused planning permission on 21 March 2014. On 17 September 2014, Heathrow Airport Ltd appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against the council's decision to refuse planning permission.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling yesterday decided to sneak out the news which will be welcome and devastating news to equal numbers of residents. It was added to the same web page providing news of the draft NPS – but much later in the day:
“The government has today granted planning permission for works at Heathrow Airport which, when complete, will enable full use of both runways subsequent to the government’s earlier decision to end the ‘Cranford agreement’. These works will result in a fairer distribution of aircraft noise in built-up areas close to Heathrow Airport. They do not allow for any increase in the number of permitted movements from the airport.”
The announcement has so far gone unnoticed by local groups, councils and campaigners.
“Fair”, of course, is highly subjective word in the context of the Cranford Agreement. That airport noise should be evenly distributed around the populations around Heathrow seems fair. That the disproportionate respite guaranteed by the agreement for so many years will end so abruptly is less clear cut.
WHO GAINS AND WHO LOSES? According to Hillingdon's own analysis flights will HALVE during easterly operations from 630 to 328 for communities under the final approaches to the northern runway – such as Windsor, Datchet, Colnbrook and Poyle. But communities including Old Windsor, Wraysbury and Stanwell Moor could see flights increase from 26 to 328 a day.
Those residents benefitting from fewer overflights should celebrate knowing that they do so at the expense of others who will be inflicted with misery. Easterly winds occur typically 30% of the time and some 4,450, mainly on the east of Heathrow, are predicted to suffer “significant adverse effects” with a sudden increase in noise pollution to levels that those on the west have had six decades to come to terms with. Some will have made life decisions based around the relative tranquility; the impact on quality of life, let alone house prices, will be hard to predict.
Heathrow is to build a 5 metre high acoustic barrier in Longford village as part of a package to mitigate the scheme.
A condition of the planning permission gives Heathrow three years to enact the new infrastructure to implement the changes.