Aviation and airports in and around Surrey

Surrey is located between Heathrow and Gatwick airports, two of the world's busiest international airports, and their proximity is recognised as very important for Surrey's economy and prosperity. Farnborough and Biggin Hill Airports, which are important for business aviation, lie to the west and north east of Surrey and the county itself is home to a number of small airfields.

Linked to its international accessibility, Surrey is an attractive location for businesses with a buoyant economy. Over 107,000 individuals are employed in jobs linked to either Heathrow or Gatwick, with many of these people also Surrey residents. However, proximity to airports can lead to negative environmental conditions, particularly noise and air pollution from aircraft and traffic congestion that affect the health and wellbeing of residents. The county council represents residents' interests on various bodies such as airport consultative committees.

There is a need to engage proactively on future airport capacity to ensure impacts within the county are considered and addressed. Our primary focus continues to be on the need for investment in infrastructure – especially public transport and active travel infrastructure - to precede any development and effective mitigation of the detrimental effects of expansion on Surrey residents and local businesses. We will work with Government, local authorities, the airports and others to address these issues and seek to ensure that all necessary measures are fully funded.

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Proposed expansion at Heathrow

The government has proposed a third runway at Heathrow. Surrey County Council has responded to this, in particular making the case for the local infrastructure necessary, if growth is to occur. More information, including our responses and supporting studies, is provided on the Surrey Future, airport expansion page.

Aviation policy and planning processes

The Department for Transport is responsible for setting national policies and long-term plans for aviation.

The National Infrastructure Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate is responsible for determining planning applications for the creation or expansion of large airports. Local impacts arising from large airport development, such local transport access for passengers, employees and freight and local air quality impacts can be subject to legal agreements with the relevant local authorities.

The relevant Local Planning Authority is responsible for determining planning applications for smaller airports (see Fairoaks and others below).

Flight paths and noise

A range of bodies are involved in determining and operating flight paths, including the Civil Aviation Authority, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), local Air Traffic Control and Department for Transport and the airlines.

The government sets controls on noise at major airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick, including flight paths (known as 'noise preferential routes' or NPRs), night flight restrictions and operational procedures (certain ways planes must be flown). The airports and airlines are responsible for adhering to these conditions. The government has established the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, to enhance the knowledge and application of best practice for aviation noise management.

The regulatory background for managing aircraft noise is international; set by the International Civil Aviation Organization which requires countries to take 'a balanced approach'. This involves four pillars including using new technology to make planes quieter, zoning development which is allowed near airports, setting noise preferential routes and imposing restrictions such as noise quotas.

Airport Consultative Committees

Surrey County Council represents residents at Airport Consultative Committees at Heathrow and Gatwick. These are advisory bodies, required by government, which provide a discussion forum for matters concerning the development or operation of the airport and any airport activities which might impact on airport users and on those living and working in areas affected by the airport's operation.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow is to the north of Surrey, in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The airport currently serves 214 destinations in 84 countries and in 2021, flew 19.4 million passengers worldwide. The busiest year ever recorded was 2019 when 80.9 million passengers travelled through Heathrow. Passenger numbers are expected to return to pre-Covid levels in the next year or so. The Government has proposed a third runway at Heathrow; however, the airport's expansion plans are currently paused.

The county council is a member of the Council for the Independent Scrutiny of Heathrow (CISHA) with representatives on the Heathrow Sustainable Economic Growth Task Force, Noise and Airspace Community Forum, and the Heathrow Area Transport Forum. The county council is also part of the Heathrow Strategic Planning Group (HSPG), where local authorities around Heathrow work together with the airport on the need for economic renewal post-Covid and sustainable development across the airport and sub-region, particularly in the context of Heathrow's updated Sustainability Strategy.

Better bus and active travel links and most importantly – as identified by the Airports Commission – improved rail access from the south are needed to improve surface access and reduce car use.

The airport is preparing its 2024 to 2028 noise action plan and currently redesigning flightpaths as part of the Government's Airspace Modernisation Strategy (see airspace modernisation webpages).

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick is to the south of Surrey, in the borough of Crawley, in West Sussex. Gatwick airport serves around 230 destinations in 70 countries and serves 46 million passengers a year.

The county council represents residents at the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (Gatcom) and works with the lead authorities of Crawley and West Sussex, to monitor the implementation of the Section 106 legal agreement relating to minimising the shortlocal services and impacts.

Information on the Gatwick Northern Runway Project to expand the airport is available on our Nationally significant infrastructure page.

The Gatwick Noise Action Plan 2019 to 2024 sets out actions for aircraft noise management and mitigation around Gatwick airport. The airport is currently redesigning flightpaths as part of the Government's Airspace Modernisation Strategy (see airspace modernisation webpages).

Fairoaks Airport

Fairoaks Airport is a general aviation airport to the north of Woking in the borough of Surrey Heath. The airport accommodates small business aircraft, helicopters and flying schools and is also home to a number of businesses. Fixed wing aircraft movements are limited to 120,000 per annum. There are no restrictions on the number of helicopter movements.

More information on the Fairoaks Airport Consultative Committee is available on their website.


Dunsfold Park is a business park and aerodrome on the outskirts of Cranleigh in the borough of Waverley. As well as being a private airfield used for a range of aviation activities including a flying school, it is also home to over 100 local businesses employing more than 1000 people.

The site has planning permission for 1800 homes including on-site education, retail, leisure and recreation provision as well as an expansion of the business park. A masterplan has been prepared for development of the new garden village.

Redhill Aerodrome

Redhill Aerodrome is a general aviation airfield to the south east of Redhill in the borough of Reigate and Banstead. It has three grass runways and is used for a range of commercial aviation activities including helicopter and fixed wing charter services and flying schools. The aerodrome also provides a base for the Air Ambulance Kent Surrey and Sussex together with the National Police Air Service.

More information on the Redhill Aerodrom Consultative Committee is available on their website.

Biggin Hill Airport

Biggin Hill Airport is a general aviation airfield in the London Borough of Bromley (which owns the freehold) with a focus on business aviation and training flights. It is also a leading centre for aviation technology and enterprise. The airport has a limit of 125,000 aircraft movements per annum.

The airport is currently redesigning flightpaths including as part of the Government's Airspace Modernisation Strategy (see airspace modernisation webpages).

More information on the Biggin Hill Airport Consultative Committee is available on their website.

Farnborough Airport

Farnborough Airport is in the borough of Rushmoor in Hampshire. TAG Farnborough Airport Limited own and operate Farnborough Airport, which is a business aviation airport. In October 2000, Rushmoor Borough Council granted planning permission for the continuation of flying from Farnborough, setting a limit of 28,000 aircraft movements per annum. An increase to 50,000 movements per annum was granted on appeal by the Secretary of State in 2019. The airport indicated in September 2023 that it was looking to increase the limit to 70,000 flights per year.

Farnborough International Airshow takes place every alternate year in early July.

The airport is currently redesigning flightpaths including as part of the Government's Airspace Modernisation Strategy (see airspace modernisation webpages).

More information on the Farnborough Aerodrome Consultative Committee is available on their website.

Airspace Modernisation Strategy

The UK's airspace has not changed significantly since the 1950s and the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) believe that airspace modernisation is now needed. A programme of work to modernise and redesign UK airspace is now underway. The aim of the strategy is to make airspace more efficient, to improve punctuality, to reduce CO2 emissions, to reduce noise and ensure there is capacity.

The strategy will require UK airports to modernise their airspace through a coordinated programme and Surrey County Council will engage with the airports that impact on Surrey as they undertake this process.

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