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Night flying restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Douglas Alexander): On 10 June 2005 the former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport announced publication of the second stage of a consultation exercise on night restrictions to apply at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports from October 2005 until the end of the summer season 2012 (Official Report, col 58WS). That consultation paper took into account all relevant responses to the stage one consultation paper issued on 21 July 2004.

The stage 2 consultation paper also announced our intention to extend the current night restrictions regime for a further year to end on 29 October 2006. This decision was confirmed on 15 December 2005, when the former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport announced the movements limits and noise quotas to apply for the summer 2006 season (Official Report, col 177WS).

I have now decided on the restrictions that will apply from 29 October 2006 to October 2012. Full details of the decision and the reasons for it are set out in the document 'Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted' including Annex A, the final Regulatory Impact Assessment, and Annex B, Assessments to comply with European Directive 2002/30, copies of which have been placed in the House Library.

The decision takes account of all the responses that we received to the consultation. In order to remove uncertainty on an element which had given rise to particular concerns, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport announced on 8 May (Official Report cols 61-62) that we had decided not to increase the night-time movements limits at Heathrow during the period 2006 to 2012. This is but one aspect of the full decision that I am publishing today.

As in the previous regime, the new night restrictions regime for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted recognises both a night period, 2300-0700 hours, and a night quota period, 2330-0600 hours. During the whole of the night period, the noisiest types of aircraft (classified as QC/8 or QC/16) may not be scheduled to land or to take off and they are effectively banned from doing so (other than in the most exceptional circumstances) in the night quota period. The next noisiest types (QC/4) may also no longer be scheduled to operate in the night quota period. In addition, during the night quota period movements by most other types of aircraft (including the new QC/0.25 category) will be restricted by a movements limit and a noise quota, which are set for each season. The seasons change with the clocks.

Unlike previous night restrictions regimes, the new restrictions take account of environmental objectives and specific noise abatement objectives for each airport. These objectives have been decided following consultation and are an integral part of my present decision.  The objectives are set out in the document 'Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted'. The decision also includes the requirement for the airports to adopt the specified night-noise-related criteria to determine which residents should be offered sound insulation to be paid for or contributed to by the airport.

I consider that for each airport the decision strikes the appropriate balance between the need to protect local communities from excessive noise and the benefits that services can bring to the national, regional and local economy.

The restrictions will be implemented by notice under section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.

Delivered: 07 June 2006