Aviation strategy

Aviation policy in the UK is currently changing. See the Government's Aviation Policy Framework.

The Government appointed an independent Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies to assess whether the UK needs additional runway capacity and the nature, scale and timing of that need.

The Airports Commission's interim report (December 2013) stated that the South East needs one net additional runway by 2030 and shortlisted two options at Heathrow and one option at Gatwick for a new runway. A national public consultation took place on these options and closed on 3 February 2015. An option of a new airport in the Inner Thames Estuary was subjected to further feasibility work but was ruled out as a viable option by the Airports Commission in September 2014 and was not added to the shortlist alongside Heathrow and Gatwick.

We supported the Airports Commission recommendation for an independent noise authority; and that measures should be taken to properly measure, minimise and mitigate the noise impacts of existing airport operations and airport expansion.

Our view on aviation is set out in Facing the aviation challenge. However, on reviewing the evidence of noise impacts across West Kent, Cabinet decided to oppose a second runway at Gatwick.

Facing the Aviation Challenge will be updated in 2017 to reflect our latest position on aviation.

A final recommendation by the Airports Commission's on the preferred option for airport expansion was made to the Government in 2015. This favoured the proposal of a Northwest runway at Heathrow, rather than additional capacity at Gatwick. In October 2016 the Government announced its acceptance of the Airports Commission recommendation and the Heathrow Northwest runway became the preferred scheme for airport expansion in the South East.

In January 2017 the Department for Transport (DfT) began a consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). This sets the planning framework that Heathrow will have to comply to bring forward a new runway. We responded to this consultation recognising that growth in the UK aviation sector will improve the UK’s connectivity and competitiveness, and therefore support economic growth. However, we have also reiterated opposition to a second runway at Gatwick and strongly advocated the best mitigation for communities affected by aviation noise wherever that might be. We also stated that where reduction is not possible, such as in outside spaces, then financial compensation would be appropriate.

The Airports Commission’s recommendation for an independent noise authority featured in the DfT’s consultation on UK Airspace Policy (January to May 2017). The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was proposed to be set up within the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). As part of our response to the consultation we emphasised that for ICCAN to be a credible and authoritative voice on aviation noise then it needs to be truly independent from the industry.

The consultation proposed new tiers for the airspace change process so that operational changes to the way aircraft are managed day-to-day are assessed in the same way as permanent changes to the structure of airspace. This will mean that any change affecting the distribution of aircraft will have to be assessed, with community involvement, before being implemented. It will also ensure that such changes are monitored by the CAA so that changes can be made if impacts are seen that had not been expected.

The Government sets a night flights quota for Gatwick and Kent County Council responded to the Department for Transport consultation on night flights, urging for a reduction.

In addition, the UK's airspace is currently being modernised to take account of new navigation technology as part of the Government's Future Airspace Strategy. The London Airspace Consultation proposes changes to Gatwick's flight paths that result in a concentration of flights along the fewest number of routes. This is in line with government policy to reduce the absolute numbers of people affected by aircraft noise. We believe that the burden of over-flight should be shared more equitably through the provision of multiple routes that gives communities under flight paths a break from being over-flown all of the time.

Kent County Council have urged for a reduction in the night flights quota for designated airports (Gatwick,  Heathrow and Stansted) as set by the Government. The most recent consultation proposed to retain the number of flights that can arrive/depart between 11:30pm and 6am in a winter or summer season, and to reduce the noise quote limit over this time period.

Additionally, the Government sets a night flights quota at designated airports (Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted) and KCC responds in regards of Gatwick, urging for a reduction. The most recent consultation (January to February 2017) proposed to retain the existing movement limits (the number of flights that can arrive/depart between 23:30 and 06:00 in a winter or summer season) and reduce the noise quota limit (the amount of noise energy that can be produced over the same period) to reflect its current usage.

The changes are due to begin in October 2017 for 5 years. Gatwick's noise quota limit will be reduced to a level reflecting their current usage, so that if they maximise the use of the movement quota the average aircraft noise will have to reduce. Due to delays, some changes will be not be implemented until October 2018.

In July 2017 the Department for Transport launched a call for evidence on a new aviation strategy for the UK . This is the first stage in its development, and the call for evidence focusses on the approach taken and the issues that the strategy should explore. Following this, there will be a series of consultations in 2017 and 2018 before a new aviation strategy is launched towards the end of 2018. We will respond to the call for evidence in line with our current policy on aviation.