Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heathrow Could Face Ban on Night Flights

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heathrow Could Face Ban on Night Flights

Article excerpt

Byline: COLIN FREEMAN

NIGHT flights into Heathrow could be banned after a landmark European Court ruling today in favour of anti-noise campaigners.

In a test case brought by eight residents living under the airport's flight path, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that they were entitled to sleep undisturbed by aircraft between 11.30pm and 6am.

The residents had claimed the noise infringed their quality of life and therefore violated their entitlements under the new Human Rights Act.

The judges in Strasbourg said the Government and airline industry had failed to prove that the economic benefits from such flights justified the nuisance to millions of Londoners.

The ruling may pave the way for claims by those living under flight paths at other London airports and elsewhere in Britain.

The outcome could have a severe impact on the airline industry, already reeling from the drop in business after last month's terrorist attacks in America.

BAA plc, which owns Heathrow airport, said it was concerned that the ruling may undermine its position among competitors in Europe for the international flight market.

The company claimed that it already faced heavier restrictions on night flights than other European airports. It said it had on average between 15 and 16 scheduled flights each night - around 5,800 a year - all scheduled to arrive between 5.15am and 6am. Some touch down as early as 4.45am if they are ahead of schedule.

John Stewart, chairman of anti-noise group Hacan Clear Skies, whose case was backed by several south London councils, said today: "This is great news for residents living under the flight path. It is a tremendous victory for a small group that has taken the British Government to court and won. We are pretty confident that the Government will respect this judgment and within 18 months we will see a ban."

A government spokesman, however, said: "There will be no immediate change to the present situation. …

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