1st April 2024


The most important public consultation for a generation about the future impact of Stansted Airport is currently underway.  At stake is the prospect of the Government removing all of its current statutory restrictions on night flights at Stansted, which have been in force for over 40 years.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is pressing hard for the removal of the current Government restrictions, which currently allow a maximum of 13,700 Stansted night flights a year.

This is despite the fact that MAG is subject to a planning agreement with Uttlesford District Council (UDC), signed in May 2003, whereby Stansted Airport is subject to the following obligation:

“From the date of this agreement not to seek any relaxation of the night flight restrictions currently in force for the night period of 23.00 – 06.59 or for the night quota period of 23.30 – 05.59.”

SAW Noise Advisor, Martin Peachey, commented: “If MAG is successful there could be no limit on the number of night flights at Stansted and this would adversely impact the health of local residents especially vulnerable groups.  Aircraft are inherently noisy machines and particularly so compared with the low ambient noise levels at night in the countryside surrounding the airport.  It is vital for local residents, local councils and other local organisations to reply to this consultation and make it clear to the Government that we want fewer night flights, not more!”

Responding to the consultation

The link to the consultation document is https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/night-flight-restrictions-heathrow-gatwick-and-stansted-airports-from-october-2025. You can respond online but an email response allows more flexibility to make your own points, rather than just responding to the pre-set questions.  The email address is night.flights@dft.gov.uk.

The consultation proposes extending the current restrictions – i.e. maintaining the status quo – at Heathrow and Gatwick until (at least) October 2028.  However, for Stansted, the Government is seeking views on three different options:

Option 1 – Removing Government controls on the number of Stansted night flights and the permitted aggregate night noise level in October 2026.

Option 2 – Removing Government controls on the number of Stansted night flights in October 2025, whilst maintaining the controls on the permitted aggregate night noise level.

Option 3 – Government night controls to remain (as per Heathrow and Gatwick).

Options 1 and 2 reflect lobbying activity by MAG.  Both these options would mean fewer restrictions and, inevitably, more Stansted night flights. Option 3 is clearly preferable and it is important that local residents make their views known to the DfT.

Other points you could make

  • Phase out night flights altogether – Stansted is currently allowed 13,700 night flights a year between the hours of 11.30pm and 6.00am. By comparison, Heathrow, which is three times bigger than Stansted, is allowed just 5,800 night flights a year.  Night flights are particularly intrusive in a largely rural area, with low background night noise levels.  The aim should be to phase out all Stansted night flights, except emergencies, by 2030.
  • ‘Night’ should mean ‘night’ – The limit on the number of night flights should apply for the full 8-hour night period (11.00pm to 7.00am) and not just for the 6½ hours (11.30pm to 6.00am) – when the limit on the number of night flights currently applies.
  • Dispense with Dispensations – Airport management can grant ‘dispensations’ where flights are delayed by weather or Air Traffic Control problems. Dispensations do not count against the night flights limit. Stansted granted 1,200 dispensations last summer whereas Heathrow granted only 462. The DfT should remove the right of airports to grant dispensations, i.e. airport management should not be allowed to mark their own homework.
  • Ban Reverse Thrust – The use of reverse thrust at night should be banned except in the case of an emergency. The Stansted runway is one of the longest in the UK and so the additional braking effect provided by using reverse thrust upon landing is unnecessary other than in exceptional circumstances.
  • Health Impacts – The Government recognises that aircraft noise at night has negative impacts upon local communities around airports and can impact on physical and mental well-being. These negative impacts are far greater than any economic benefits.

Night flights are the biggest single cause of noise complaints by local residents. This consultation is an opportunity to make your voice heard. The closing date is 22 May 2024.  As a reminder, the email address for replying to the consultation is night.flights@dft.gov.uk.

SAW Chairman, Brian Ross, concluded: “MAG is putting profit before people in pressing for more Stansted night flights and, in so doing, is shamefully breaking its planning agreement with UDC.  However, if enough local residents and local councils respond to this consultation, making clear that we don’t want more Stansted night flights, we can convince the Government not to bow to MAG’s pressure.”

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits