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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
No night flights ban says minister
Jumbo near Heathrow
Residents want flights restricted to daytime hours
The UK government says it has no immediate plans to ban night flights to Heathrow and has cast doubt on a ruling that aircraft noise violated local residents' human rights.

The European Court of Human Rights appeared to have ruled on 2 October in favour of eight residents who claimed the nightly flights violated their human rights.

It had been thought that such a ruling, though not binding on the UK government, would lead to such flights being banned at Heathrow and possibly other airports across the country.

British Airways, the British Airports Authority and the London Chamber of Commerce, among others, warned against any such move.

The news that the ban might not be put in place came after Conservative MPs George Osborne and Michael Trend called for night flights to be scrapped during a debate in Westminster Hall.

'Fair balance'

Mr Osborne said: "For people who live under flight paths and near airports, there should at least be the right to a good night's sleep.

"Reasonable and appropriate measures should therefore include the banning of night flights," he said.

But Junior Transport Minister David Jamieson said: "We do not at present consider the court is saying in this judgment that limited numbers of night flights, due to the disturbance they can cause, necessarily amount to a violation of human rights and therefore should not be allowed.

"In our view, the court continues to recognise the principle that a fair balance needs to be struck."

He stressed the government could not give a full response until it had "all the facts" and had fully studied the ECHR ruling.

Enshrined in UK law

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.

Switching British Airways's early morning flights into Heathrow to daytime slots could cost between 20m-30m a year, according to estimates reported earlier this month.

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.

The case was thought likely to have an impact on all other airports within the EU.

First hand account

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.

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

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

One resident living under the flight path, Virginia Godfrey, described earlier this month 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."

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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