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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 17:03 GMT
London: Sleepless in the City
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

Night flight
Residents say their sleep is disturbed by noisy planes

The Politics Show London examines the thorny issues of nightflights at Heathrow and the affect that London's booming low cost air industry is having on pollution and climate change.

Driving to Heathrow, to talk to people about their campaign to stop aeroplanes landing at night, you notice how many people live close by.

Pockets of communities, fence-touching close!

Like Ann and Bryan Sobey who live in Sipson.

They literally back on to the airport parameter.

As Bryan tells me how Sipson used to be a quiet, rural market town, his wife Ann brings me a cuttings book.

She got signatures for a petition that helped get night flights banned in 1963.

But 30 years later, this restriction was eased. Once won, then lost, the battle's back on.

The cap on night-time flights, is about 16 allowed from 11.30 to 6am.

Most of these arrive after 4.30am.

There are half a million people living under the flight-path to Heathrow in London.

If there is a third runway, there will be 150,000 more.

The area most affected is West/South West London.

At the moment, residents are fighting on two fronts.

Firstly, to keep the current cap on night-time flights and secondly, to stop a Bill being passed in Parliament.

The current cap is under review.

A consultation got 1,800 responses - 400 of these, asked for a night-flight ban but the government would like the cap to go up from 16 to 18.

Whatever is decided, will hold until 2012.

The Civil Aviation Bill, talks of noise quotas rather than numbers of flights.

The idea, is that if companies can get their planes quiet enough, it does not matter how many fly day or night.

Siding with residents, the Lords voted against this bill this month. It returns to the Commons in April 2006.

The argument for night-flights, and indeed, for expansion as a whole, is the economic importance to the UK, of keeping Heathrow's position as the second largest airport in the world, of the money and jobs it generates.

But balancing this, with the fact that houses and community - albeit changed ones, were here first, is not the easiest thing to do.

Air pollution The growth of the low cost airline has had a huge affect on passenger numbers in airports across the capital.

Luton's passenger numbers have increased by 400% in the 10 years up to 2004 and Stansted has had a 640% increase in passengers in the same period

But at what cost to the planet?

CO2 emissions from aircraft currently account for about 3.5% of the worldwide emissions , but that figure is expected to leap to 15% by 2050.

Not just that but, aviation pollution is considered dangerous because of the amounts of fuel used at high altitude.

The Government is committed to reduce CO2 levels 20% by 2020 and want to have dropped it by 60% come 2050, The question is how will they combine emission reduction with airport expansion.

The Tyndale Centre for Climate Research believe that if aircraft pollution is not reduced then homes, business and motorists will have to reduce their emissions to zero to meet Government targets

What the government is doing

The Government believes the best way to tackle the pollution from aircraft is as combination of emission capping and emission trading and setting up schemes which off-set the damage done by aircraft pollution.

Critics claim the only way to reduce emissions is too reduce passenger numbers and that ultimately means some kind of pollution tax to discourage travellers

The Politics Show London

Join the Politics Show on BBC One on Sunday 26 March 2006 at 12.30pm with Tim Donovan.

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