In a debate in Parliament yesterday, during Noise Action Week, I challenged the Government to ban night flights at Heathrow airport on the grounds of health and quality of life factors for local residents.
New research from Warwick University published in the European Heart Journal in February this year studied the impact of hormones and chemicals caused by chronic lack of sleep in the body. They concluded that: "If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep, you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke."
The World Health Organisation and the HYENA report from Imperial College London also found that, even if people don't wake up, there is evidence that noise from night flights causes immediate increases in blood pressure.
The impact of night flights on the lives of those living under the flightpaths of Heathrow airport is something we must take seriously. Stronger enforcement of current quotas is required, together with higher fines for consistent offenders. As we prepare to set new night flight agreements for 2012/17, we must also give full consideration to reducing or eliminating night flights, especially between the critical 11.30pm and 6.00am period.
I also urge the Government to work with BAA and the airlines to ensure effective noise mitigation, such as insulation and double glazing, for those who are worst affected by the noise of aircraft at Heathrow.
I hope that the Government's current consultation on the future UK aviation strategy marks a positive step forward in relations between the Government and the aviation industry. I want us to ensure that Heathrow airport continues to thrive and, at the same time, takes into account the quality of life of those who live around the airport.