A Third Runway at Heathrow with Twickenham Under the Flight Path

Some sky (where planes go)

Some sky (where planes go)

Heathrow airport has just submitted its proposals to the Davies Commission which is looking at options for expanding airport capacity. Rather than pushing the much trailed third runway at Sipson to the north of the current two runways, Heathrow has submitted three alternative options, one to the north, one to the north-west and one to the south-west. Heathrow says all options are cheaper than creating a new hub elsewhere, such as a ‘Boris Island’ in the Thames estuary. Its preferred locations are considered to be either to the north-west or the south-west. This latter option is likely to be the one with the biggest impact on Twickenham. Oh, and there might be a fourth runway too, but not until 2040 of course. Here’s one local’s view on the proposals. And it’s fair to say he isn’t happy!


“Many Twickenham residents will have greeted today’s news that Heathrow airport would like a third runway with casual disinterest or even pleasure. “Hey,” they might say, “Maybe it’ll bring more jobs to Hounslow, and our daily lives won’t really be affected, will they?”

Unfortunately, a third runway to the south-west of Heathrow — rumoured to be the airport’s favourite of three options put forward — will have a devastating impact on Twickenham.

What do you like about the area now? Is it the tranquility of the river, Marble Hill or Richmond Park? The outdoor community events at Diamond Jubilee Gardens or quaint old Church Street? Maybe just sitting in your living room with the windows open on a summer’s day? What if jumbo jets were constantly thundering overhead, shattering the peace?

We already get a taste of this when the wind blows from an easterly direction. Planes have to take off into the wind, so occasionally some Heathrow departures head over Whitton, Twickenham and Teddington. Happily though, this only happens about one day in seven — the wind in Britain blows mainly from the west — and even then an hour can pass with barely a murmur from the skies. But if a south-western third runway were built, planes would be flying over us every day and, if they followed a similar pattern to the existing flight paths over Richmond and Brentford, landing craft would drone past every 90 seconds, creating an almost constant wall (or ceiling) of sound.

Some might argue that Heathrow brings prosperity to the area, so expanding it can only boost the local economy. Well, yes, some residents work at the airport. But the vast majority do not and the financial benefits to most people and businesses are negligible.

In fact, the economic effect a third runway could have on Twickenham’s population could be profoundly negative. Would you buy a house under a proposed new flight path? I wouldn’t. Richmond is an attractive place but, even if I could afford it, I would never move there because of the aircraft noise. People claim that the planes haven’t harmed Richmond house prices, but that analysis doesn’t go much beyond noting that it’s an expensive place to live — most of which is down to the park, the river and its proximity to London. If it was quiet, too, prices would arguably be much higher. By contrast, if Twickenham was suddenly blighted by constant din, house prices could plummet.

The real financial winners of expanding Heathrow would be its Spanish owners and the construction companies. Jobs would be safeguarded and created, too, but so they would if Gatwick or Stansted were expanded or a Thames Estuary airport built.

Heathrow claims that we shouldn’t worry too much about noise, because aircraft are getting quieter. They are, but by such a tiny amount that this argument is an irrelevance. A jumbo flying overhead is a huge, thunderous proposition and will remain so for decades. Electric planes are not around the corner.

Others would claim we shouldn’t moan because the airport was there when we bought our homes. Well, the new proposed flight path wasn’t and we live six miles from Heathrow, not on its doorstep. Indeed, Heathrow flights have increased exponentially in the last 40 years, so to claim we shouldn’t object to the noise because we haven’t lived here since before the airport was built is like saying you can’t complain about the busy country road you live gradually turning into a motorway.

We can all hope that the Davies Commission will throw Heathrow’s proposals out. It may well do. But we cannot assume this. Now is the time for residents to make it clear that Heathrow expansion cannot and will not stand. Waiting until a plan is approved may mean battling impossible momentum.

The author is a local resident and, as you might have detected, strongly opposed to a third runway. That’s one view. What’s yours?


* BBC Report on Heathrow proposals


Filed under Local Issues & News

37 responses to “A Third Runway at Heathrow with Twickenham Under the Flight Path

  1. anonymouse

    Unfortunately flights don’t stop at 11pm. Take-offs regularly continue until midnight on ‘normal’ days, and much later on abnormal days.

    The flight stats don’t lie, unlike the Heathrow PR machine!

  2. “One day in seven” is a deeply misleading stastistic, since that implies one day of noise followed by six of quiet. It’s more like four days or more on the trot of very loud noise through to 11pm every month

  3. Steve P

    Without meaning to sound complacent, the SW option appears to involve filling in two reservoirs and tunneling a section of the M25, which don’t forget is 10 lanes wide at this point. As Bruce Willis would say “does that sound small to you?”. As for who pays for the associated works…No, if #3 does make an unwanted comeback, it will surely be going on the vacant land where it was originally proposed somewhere to the north.

  4. Does vibration have an effect upon building in the area?….and what this thning about ”chemtrails’ i really dont know to be honest…

    • john

      its not chemicals, its is ‘steam’ ‘cloud stuff’ to put it simply.. the heated air from the jets forms it..

      there was a horizon about it ages ago, talking about global cooling/ heating, where during the ‘no-fly’ in 9/11, it was found to be hotter during the day, and cooler at night.. so ”chemtrails” actually help.. 🙂

  5. i like that “Some sky (where planes go)” may you could swap your sky with someone elses ie ones that dont have so many planes??

    when i used to be in teddington i noticed just how low they flew and it was quite noisy…does it affect house prices?…

  6. Planes landing make very little noise compared to the ones taking off (and it is pretty horrible at the moment, I agree). I think it’s a bit pointless stirring up a huge fuss about what ‘might’ happen. Also, noise issues are very minor compared with whole communities potentially losing their homes as could happen in Stanwell Moor or Sipson. Better by far to get Gatwick to have a second runway – they’ve got the space and the lack of building structure around to make that comparatively easy and a lot cheaper than thinking of mad ideas like burying the M4 and M25 in tunnels, for heaven’s sake. Sadly the Surrey/Sussex NIMBYs seem to be all-powerful. Time for them to think again, I feel.

    • twickerman

      Try standing under the southern flightpath in Old Isleworth and then tell us that ‘planes landing make very little noise’ when they roar overhead every 90 seconds.

      It’s clear that the Heathrow powers that be, and many politicians including the Prime Minister, are hell bent on expanding Heathrow whatever the environmental cost.

      Expansion of the underused runways at Gatwick and Stansted makes more sense and would be less expensive than concreting over Stanwell Moor and village.

      But, it’s probable/inevitable that Heathrow will be enlarged and it’s us locals that will suffer the fallout from the Battle of Britain’s airspace.

    • Simon H

      It’s also the regularity of planes on the landing flight paths that annoy. And the noise they make lasts for a good 30 seconds per aircraft.

  7. Twicktor Meldrew

    How many people here slating airport expansion have taken nice long haul holidays from Heathrow on 747s? They’d miss it if it wasn’t there!

    • Rufus McDufus

      To be fair we don’t have a lot of choice. I prefer to pick Gatwick as it’s much nicer and is often cheaper to catch a cab to than Heathrow, but for intercontinental flights is more limited.

    • Simon H

      I’d happily spend another hour or so going to a more suitable location to jet off on my holidays from.

  8. nemesis

    Does anyone know if there is a link to a plan of what the proposed flight paths would be under the three plans?

    • Joy

      Try Google. I did find one, but not sure where exactly.

    • physicist

      I haven’t seen detailed departure flight paths, but arrival flight paths are predictable since aircraft must align with the new runways several miles out. So draw an east-west axis through the proposed south-west runway and you will see that during westerly operations (70% of the time), planes will be coming in to land directly over Marble Hill, Twickenham town centre (a shade to the south of the station) and crossing the A316 at the top of Meadway.

      How noisy ? The threshold for the new south-west runway is about 5km or so further west than the current runways, so similar to the current approaches over Mortlake/Barnes perhaps.


    • Simon H

      I think the new runway would only be about 2 miles further west, in fact. So the noise levels would be more like Kew.

  9. David

    I’m wondering whether the South West option really is Heathrow’s favoured one.

    Reading between the lines of the document they put out, they’ve done the classic civil servant’s trick of presenting two tricky options and a third slightly less tricky one. I’m wondering whether their actual favourite is the North West option, which has kind of come out of the blue (no pre-leaking like the South West option).

    The options are basically the North one (already rejected last time round, and with a runway too short to be useful); the South West one (expensive, will take until 2029, and political dynamite given the Tory voters that will be affected); and the North West one (in the middle in terms of expense, achievable by 2026, and less politically sensitive unless the Queen kicks up a fuss).

    If I were in PR, I’d have suggested that they leak the South West option to whip up opposition in advance, so that when they present the North West option the anti-Heathrow camps are already divided.

    All of that said, I agree with the people who say this is principally about Heathrow’s (and BA’s) profits rather than any benefit to the broader UK. New York gets by with several airports, so why can’t London? And if they want to open up slots to new markets, they should simply cut back on the many, many short-haul flights they offer.

  10. tired

    I agree with most of the article, but the ‘Happily though, this only happens about one day in seven’ is simply not true. Apart from yesterday morning and the two days over the weekend we have had all the traffic for the last few weeks and more.

    I could go on and on here mainly because I’m tired like the majority of people who were kept up until 12’ish last night, but what we really need is to fight back. I’m not sure how personally, but I’m more than willing to help out.

    The one thing we can all be clear on though, is Heathrow will lie out of their tail winds to get this through.

  11. taltd

    It seems most of you posting would bring back people walking in front of cars with red flags, and support becoming a Sark-style island in the North Sea with no desire to compete with RoW. If you choose to live on the outskirts of one of the largest capital cities in the world in line with its major international airport, maybe you should accept the consequences of minor changes to existing travel infrastructure, rather than wanting to waste billions putting it in someone else’s back yard? Planes are getting quieter, the world is getting more connected. I, for one, am all for LHR expansion, having lived in Richmond and Twickenham for thirty years and listened to the nonsensical rhetoric spouted by BoJo and his cronies in support of having an airport, nay an island, named after him.

    • Joy

      Minor changes? Are you serious?

    • taltd

      Adding one runway to LHR is a minor change compared to the ludicrosity of starting from scratch in the Thames Estuary and thereby throwing away 70 years of development and investment. Air travel continues to expand through market forces: Schiphol now has five runways, while Frankfurt is currently building a fourth 4km runway. Heathrow was established in the late 1940’s, sufficient time for people who don’t wish to live on the outskirts of our capital city near a major international airport to consider where they would like to move to, one could argue. Worth reading the considered Heathrow view at tinyurl.com/kaynxxq before joining in with BoJo’s NIMBY argument.

    • Simon H

      The “considered view” you’ve posted a link to comes from Heathrow itself. A corporate entity promoting it’s own business. Nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but it’s not in the least bit objective or considered. Please don’t be taken in by it.

      And the whole “Heathrow was established in the 1940s” line is nonsense. There were just a few flights a day back then, but the numbers exploded in the 1970s and 80s. It was at that point that a new airport, away from such a massively populated area, should have been built.

    • Rik


      I am a sound-engineer by day, so if you want me to lend you some boomy and loud aircraft sfx CDs to help you sleep for the when the wind changes, I’ll be more than happy to help you out.

    • taltd

      Also a sound engineer, and fond memories of Concord being the only thing that could stop an orchestral recording session in studio one at the old Olympic Studios in Barnes twice a day. A small price to pay for the technological travel advances of the modern world.

    • Rik

      I suppose I don’t see it as a small price. I see it has a major pain in the ears.

    • twickerman

      I also have fond memories of Concord, even though my house shook every evening it came over at 10pm.

      It was truly iconic, but if it had landed more than twice a day it too would have been a pain in the earse!

    • taltd and Rik – sound engineer (also ex-Olympic!) operating from premises here too. the planes are a pain in the proverbial at the moment but I do sort-of love them too.

  12. Joy

    Hear, hear. (Or hear sod-all of anything much if the planes are above…)
    Hot night last night but couldn’t sleep once the planes started up at silly o’clock this morning. Couldn’t sleep anyway because the bedroom was 28C but I had to close the windows because of the planes. Fantastic.

    Planes plus heat seems to equal the thunderous planes above. Last night the boom from one especially noisy one was reminiscent of Concorde, I kid you not. But then, you’ll know that if you were trying to watch tv, talk or possibly, sleep in the intense heat that calls for windows to be open… And here we go again today – though I suppose it means there’s a cooling easterly wind. Every cloud…
    The Heathrow plan is idiotic. Those who focus on Sipson are being bizarrely naive. These aren’t helicopters – these are planes with an, er, flight path that extends over much of west London. What happens when three or four runways are insufficient? Will we transform Richmond park into terminal six?! And, to all those moaning about the environmental effect on the dreadful Isle of Grain – well, what about noise pollution and the pollution that will come from more traffic, plane fuel and all that? West London is a tad more populated than the area around the proposed Boris island, which is dismissed as “crazy” by short-sighted party line following fools.

  13. Stephanie Beckett

    We used to live near Twickenham Green, in the summer when the planes went over it was deafening – and if it was Concorde then all conversations, phone calls etc had to stop until it had passed. I miss Twickenham, it was a peaceful, lovely area to live, but if there is to be more plane noise I’d choose where we are now any time (Devon)

  14. twickerman

    Last week, as the planes were taking off over the centre of Twickenham, I took a some sound recordings of the biggest and noisiest planes.

    The noisiest, by a pin drop, were the elderly Boeing 747 jumbos, but on average they were only 1db louder than the new supersized A380 doubledeckers. The difference is insignificant. Both were exceptionally noisy and loud enough to stop a conversation for 20 seconds. So much for the argument about newer quieter planes – it’s a jumbo sized porky pie!

    Climate change is affecting weather patterns and is moving the Atlantic Gulf stream further North, thus allowing more Easterly winds from the Continent, such as those we’ve had over the last few weeks. As a result we have experienced many more Easterly take-offs over Twickenham.

    Another factor I noticed when monitoring plane movements and noise is that virtually all of the biggest, noisiest planes are routed directly over Twickenham, while many of the smaller planes turn sharp right towards Hampton. Conclusion: Twickenham is in the firing line of the noisiest planes.

    The only piece of slightly good news is that the Boeing 787 dreamliners are relatively quiet, but that’s of little consolation as they are regularly grounded and the number of massive A380s continues to increase and increase. FYI, BA’s first A380 plane made it’s first flight just two week. It was the first of the many A380s that BA have ordered.

    Many years ago I bought a relatively cheap house on the North St Margarets border that was under the Southery flightpath. I paid a lot of money to move to escape the 4am and 5am transcontinental arrivals that used to wake me every morning.

    I desperately hope that Central and North Twickenham isn’t blighted by similar repetitive noise disturbance, in the early mornings and until midnight, that I previously experienced. That’s exactly what will happen if the South-West Heathrow (Stanwell) runway option is allowed to go ahead.

    If it does go ahead I will probably move again. No doubt at a loss because of a fall in property prices. After all – who wants to live under the world’s busiest flightpath.

    The only way to stop approval and development of the South West (Stanwell) runway option is to fight harder, louder and smarter than the residents in the firing lines of Heathrow’s alternatively proposed North and NorthWest runways.

    • ASJ

      Agree. Also to add, noisier bigger planes take the Dover path to long haul destinations while ones turnin over Hampton are to mainland EU. Hence the difference, I think.

    • Rufus McDufus

      Good post. I would move in a flash from Twickenham if it’s going to get any worse.

      We’ve been lied to so many times. Firstly no more terminals after Terminal 4 (and probably T3 etc. before that), then planes are getting quieter (they’re not really), and then planes will be so big that far less will fly over (they’re getting bigger and greater in numbers). The problem is we don’t know what to believe, but can pretty much trust that BAA and its backers will continue to lie to get what they want.

      Who are these businesses that require people flying in and out all the time anyway? It doesn’t strike me as a very good business model to rely on aeroplanes. MY gut feeling is that it’s MPs driving this with vested interests.

  15. Anonymous

    I live in Twickenham and we already get planes thundering past every 15 mins – at least. it has been particularly bad the last few months, apart from a brief few days when the wind changed. They frequently stop after 12am and start at 6am. I love Twickenham but don’t think I could cope if it got worse than it is right now. I can’t sleep at all with the windows open until the planes stop.