Public Safety Zone for Heathrow? No follow up from consultation meetings

February 11, 2008 at 6:09 am | Posted in Adding capacity, Buildings, Development, Heathrow, Heathrow airport, Heathrow expansion, Intersections, Maps, Ministers, Motorways, MPs, PSZ, Public Consultation, Public exhibitions, Public Safety Zones, Safety, Schools | Leave a comment

While ‘Adding capacity at Heathrow airport‘ proposals by the Department for Transport are boldly promoted by the Government and aviation industry emphasising economic arguments about the benefits of Heathrow expansion to the nation and the City—yet BAA, BA and the Government are more likely to be the major beneficiaries—there is a curious reluctance to provide information to local residents and councils concerning Public Safety Zones. PSZs are shrouded in mystery and up-to-date maps are, to put it mildly, hard to find.South Bucks District Council, amongst others, has raised this issue in its report on Heathrow airport – Government Consultation on adding capacity at Heathrow:

4.8 Public Safety Zones are applied at the end of each runway to restrict development thereby limiting the number of people affected by an aircraft accident on take off or landing. Maps relating to a 3rd runway would not be produced until there is more certainty over the operations.

4.9 The original proposal for a 2000m runway was to increase capacity for lighter and newer mainly short-hall aircraft thus limiting the noise and pollution impact somewhat. More recent proposals suggest that the new runway would be longer which will enable access by heavier, noisier aircraft so bringing more homes to the north of the airport into the belt where noise levels are 57 decibels or above. It would also see the airport handle up to 700,000 flights a year at the cost of 700 properties. The effect of moving the operating area of the airport further to the north will inevitably have an impact in terms of planes over flying communities further out, although it is not yet possible to be definitive the new runway is likely to lead to more aircraft over-flying communities across South Bucks at a lower level on either arrival or departure. The actual impact will depend largely on the capacity of the runway to handle the larger noisier aircraft. Given the lack of definitive mapping there is the question of whether or not the public safety zone would affect a part of South Bucks, given that the 3rd runway would be to the immediate south of the M4 motorway. This could be a considerable concern if parts of South Bucks were to be affected. There should be more definitive detail, since without this it is somewhat difficult to make an assessment of the impacts. Consideration should be given as to whether a 3rd runway could be serviced not by a 6th terminal, but by the existing terminal facilities, with planes passing under the existing northern runway in a tunnelled taxiway – the technical feasibility of this should be explored.

In addition to our borough councils raising this concern over the lack of information on Public Safety Zones at Heathrow, individuals have written to their Members of Parliament, attempting to obtain maps and further details.

The author has given me permission to post the following letter to a local MP, Ann Keen. It serves as an example of many requests for further information on ‘Adding capacity at Heathrow’ that have, as yet, gone unanswered by our elected representatives and the Department of Transport. This information was requested on 16th January 2008 at the DfT’s Public Exhibition (i.e. where experts were on hand to answer questions from members of the public) in Brentford. Despite repeated promises, no maps have been supplied, to date:

Dear Ann,

Thank you for your invitation to the consultation meeting on 16th February. I will try to cancel my other arrangements for that day to make it to the session. I would welcome more information on the agenda/layout of the session when this becomes available.

Related to the expansion and to your letter to Ruth Kelly regarding the safety implications of the expansion, I was dismayed to learn when I attended the Brentford Consultation Exhibition at the Holiday Inn that no maps of the Public Safety Zones (1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100,000) for the proposed runway had been drawn up. This was on the evening before the Heathrow crash. The experts there told me that the exact zones would depend on the particular flight paths and only indicative routes exist now. However they agreed that an indicative public safety zone for the third runway could be obtained by moving the zones for the existing runways northwards and attaching them to the third runway. They agreed to email me a pdf map of the existing public safety zones to achieve this.

Nothing arrived in my email.

Last weekend, I attended the Westminster Consultation Exhibition at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre and again asked about the maps of the public safety zones. The assistant apologised, again took my details and again promised to email the maps to me.

Seven days later I have still received nothing.

No doubt you will wish to inform yourselves of the areas affected. I believe one Hillingdon school and the major M25/M4 intersection are both likely to be within the inner PSZ and it will be interesting to see what the area affected by the outer zone and the implications for building development in that zone will be.

I would be grateful if you could raise this with the Department for Transport so appropriate information is available before the consultation closure.


(Name and address supplied, but withheld from online copy)


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