Agenda item

Night Flights Consultation

To consider Government consultation on night flight restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports beyond 2024, plus national night flights policy.



The Senior Planning Policy Officer suggested that this item be postponed until the next meeting as the deadline for the consultation had been extended by the Department for Transport to the 3 September 2021.   This was so that further evidence that was shortly to be published could be taken into account, including the CAA’s Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014: Aircraft Noise and Sleep report (“SoNA Sleep”).




The Chair suggested that the item was discussed so that Members could provide feedback on what had been published to date.


The Senior Planning Policy Officer presented the report and explained that Appendix A set out suggested responses and Appendix B gave an overview of how the existing night flights regime worked.


He particularly pointed out:-

  • The operation of the dispensations arrangements where certain flights in the Night Quota Period did not count against the quota count or movement limits.  He said there should be no dispensations when there was industrial action and when the daily rotation of aircrafts was pushed into the night time due to overrunning.
  • The benefits of a 10 years plus regime with a review half way through this period.
  • The operational details of the QC system and the recommendation to phase out the carry over and overrun arrangements as this did not give transparency to residents.
  • What would be included in the future night flights policy including: best in class aircraft; providing respite and minimising demand for night flights.
  • Support for the proposal to include night flights in the Government’s overall policy on aviation noise.


Councillor Dean asked for a seminar to be arranged before the revised report came back to the meeting to refresh the Panel on general aviation details and it was suggested that this included what the Panel’s role should be.


The Chair agreed that there should be more regular meetings of the Panel and suggested that the next STAAP meeting took place in August or September 2021. 


Councillor Caton was concerned that the report focused on noise, health, and the economy but had no environmental constraints on additional night flights. 


The Senior Planning Policy Officer said the forthcoming Net-Zero Aviation Strategy and Transport Decarbonisation Plan would provide this opportunity and would be looked at separately.  The Department of Transport  had confirmed that these would be separate documents, but could not confirm which one would be published first. 


There was further discussion about the environmental impact of night flights and the Senior Planning Policy Officer suggested the inclusion of comments that cargo aircraft were generally more polluting and night flights added to the carbon footprint.




Councillor Pepper agreed to circulate information regarding the impact of aviation on the environment.  She had noticed that there were more flights after midnight and she was concerned that this would further increase post-Brexit as  overseas trade increased. 


The Director of Public Services said there had been growing use of the night time period for cargo but there were some restrictions.  Uttlesford District Council had previously made representations which asked for a total night flight ban. 


The Chair said that there should be strongly worded statements against night flights.  He said airports operated at night because they could.


The Director of Public Services said that the operating license required 24 hour operations at Stansted albeit with night flight restrictions.


Councillor Isham said that low fares airlines like Ryanair relied on late arrivals as there were lower landing fees at night and they needed to move aircraft ready for the early morning flights the next day.  He thought it would be difficult to implement a total ban. 


Councillor Fairhurst said there should be a clear view and support for a total night flights ban with a consultation across all town and parish councils with regards to the impact of noise on the Community.  He said there was no current proposal for the de-designation of the airport now but there could be in the future and the Council should have a position worked out now for this eventuality.


Councillor Sutton said that Stansted had 13,700 night flights per year which was twice the number at Heathrow and these were all within 11:30pm to 6:00am.  She agreed it was important to involve the parishes.


The Chair said that MAG and SSE should be invited to meetings to provide information and updates.  The Senior Planning Policy Officer agreed that this used to happen and would be a good idea for the future.


In response to comments from Councillor Pepper, Councillor Luck said there were efficiencies made at night due to fewer delays and therefore less consumption of fuel; aircraft were more efficient in cooler temperatures and cargo flights were scheduled months ahead to provide efficient operation of the airport and crews.  He thought it would be helpful for an operator like FedEx to be invited to speak at the meeting.


The seminar was discussed again, the Director of Public Services said this had Officer resource implications.  He also said there needed to be a balance between the local community’s views and what would actually influence the Department of Transport. 


Councillor Isham agreed and suggested that Professor Banatvala from SSE be invited to speak on health issues.


Councillor Sutton said MAG had a market research company and there was a small group being formed to work on the airspace modernisation programme.  This showed that the airport was interested in communities’ view. 


The Senior Planning Policy Officer said that details of the airspace modernisation programme were set out on page 53 of his report.  The aim of the process was to move away from ground based technology and make use of satellite navigation.  


There was an on going application for airspace change at Stansted Airport and Councillor Eke had been involved in the first stage of stakeholder negotiation and the second stage would look at a variety of options.  Once a preferred scheme was chosen a full public consultation would take place in 2022. 


Councillor LeCount said he thought the Panel should be comparing those airports that have night flights with those that did not and agreed to work on this with the assistance of the Chair, Councillor Isham, and Councillor Fairhurst.   


Councillor Isham agreed to share a document which related to night flights with the Panel.


The Director of Public Services said that other national governments had different priorities and this needed to be taken into account when carrying out the research. 



Supporting documents: