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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Night flights ruling 'a farce'
Jumbo near Heathrow
Residents want flights restricted to daytime hours
A court ruling which could stop night flights to and from Heathrow airport has been condemned as "a farce" by the London Chamber of Commerce.

Its spokesman, Peter Bishop, said the aviation industry was being discriminated against when it was most vulnerable.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled flights to and from the airport between 11pm and 6am infringe residents' rights to a good night's sleep, under article eight of the Human Rights convention.

Airlines and airports across the country are likely to be affected by the decision, although it is not clear what short-term action the UK Government will take.

A small group of residents has taken on the UK Government and won

John Stewart

Mr Bishop said: "If the government bans night flights at Heathrow, it will place the industry at a further disadvantage compared to its European competitors, who have fewer restrictions on night flights."

Switching British Airway's early morning flights into Heathrow to day-time slots could cost between 20m-30m a year, he added.

A spokeswoman for British Airways told BBC News Online: "We are going to be studying the judgement and looking at the potential implications for our operations."

The ruling is not binding on the government, although the convention on which it is based is now in enshrined in UK's own Human Rights Act.

Nightly noise

The case, brought against the Department of Transport by a group of residents living under the Heathrow flight path, is also likely to have an impact on all other airports within the EU.

Members of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan) say their sleep is badly affected by about 16 aircraft which arrive at Heathrow between four and six o'clock in the morning.

We must wait and see how the government responds to understand what the impact may be for Heathrow


Hacan chairman John Stewart celebrated with champagne and described the ruling, which gave 4,000 damages to each plaintiff, as "great news" for everybody under the flightpath.

"A small group of residents has taken on the UK Government and won. The government may appeal, but I don't think it will.

"I think within 18 months we could see an end to overnight flights at Heathrow."

Difficult balance

A spokesman for airport operator BAA at Heathrow said it would continue working to find improvements.

"We must wait and see how the government responds to understand what the impact may be for Heathrow.

"We have always recognised there is a difficult balance for government to strike on night flights between passengers' demand to fly, airlines' operational requirements, and the impact on local communities."

One resident living under the flight path, Virginia Godfrey, described the nightly noise from aircraft as intolerable.

She told the BBC: "It's loud enough to wake you up, and loud enough that you don't get back to sleep again once you've been woken up."

The BBC's Robert Hall
"A constant thunder of engines"
Philippa Edmonds, Heathrow resident
"Sleep deprivation is a form of human torture"
See also:

16 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Selling off the skies
17 Feb 00 | UK
Revolution in the air
02 Oct 01 | UK
Q&A: Night flights
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