Behind the scenes… with Biodiversity Manager Adam Cheeseman


By Heathrow

Published 29th February 2016

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Meet Adam, the Biodiversity and Landscaping Manager looking after Heathrow Airport. Adam is going to be updating us every month on what goes on in managing more than 170 hectares of freshwater lakes, reedbeds and woodland around the airport. But, before that, let’s find out a little bit about him and his role.

What is your role at Heathrow?

As the Biodiversity Manager I’m responsible for managing Heathrow’s 13 off-airport environment sites in all aspects for the benefit of nature conservation. I also advise on all wildlife related issues around the airport as a whole, and collaborate with a number of partner organisations in the surrounding boroughs.

I sit within Heathrow’s Environment team, who work with airport contractors to protect and enhance biodiversity around the airport including Heathrow’s conservation sites.

Heathrow has operated a comprehensive biodiversity management programme for many years, which is part of our commitment to running Heathrow responsibly through our commitment to supporting the UK and local economies whilst managing our impacts on communities and the environment.

What does a typical day involve for you?

There’s no such thing as a typical day as my work can be driven by things such as weather conditions, time of day, seasonality and responding to issues that need immediate attention. Broadly speaking, much of the spring, summer and autumn will see me carrying out surveys – everything from plants to moths to bats and birds and everything else in between.

This enables me to see what species we have present, as well as population numbers and trends, which help to gauge whether our habitat management programme is working or needs adjusting.

Water Avens (Geum rivale) found in Heathrow managed biodiversity areas.

Winter time is when I am more likely to be indoors doing IT based work such as reviewing the sites’ management plans, report writing, or maintaining the species database and my Heathrow Wildlife flickr page for example.

Or I could be out working with contractors to ensure that the habitat management works are being completed with Heathrow colleagues from across the business often also helping out.

What do you enjoy most about your role, and what aspects do you find the most challenging?

Nature doesn’t read the rule books so there is always something that could throw me a curve ball. Even after a quarter of a century in nature conservation I am still learning new things about wildlife here at Heathrow.

Finding new species for the airport is always exciting and haabitat management has always been a major interest to me so getting to manage Heathrow’s woodlands, meadows, reedbeds etc. with all their associated flora and fauna is quite a privilege.

It’s also great to gain recognition. Our approach to biodiversity has earned Heathrow the Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark Award, the only UK national award recognising responsible land management, for 8 years in a row. We were the first airport to attain this award.

Though six of the current biodiversity sites would be affected by the third runway development, there is huge potential for creating habitats in the proposed corridor to the north of the airport.

Effectively starting with a blank canvas there is scope to create any number of regional lowland habitats in suitable areas that will hugely benefit wildlife not only on the sites themselves but further extend the network of connection between sites that currently exists around Heathrow and beyond.

When T5 was built, a whole wet grassland was lifted and moved to the other side of the River Colne where it has continued to thrive. The reason for moving the habitat was that it contains some rare plant species; including the last known wild population in London of Water Avens. We’ve since found rare species of spiders and beetles living there too.

Why is habitat management so important for Heathrow Airport?

Heathrow’s biodiversity management strategy seeks to balance the priority of ensuring aircraft safety whilst playing a leading role in supporting biodiversity management in the local area and beyond. In practice this means managing habitats in a way that minimises high risk bird species but protects and enhances those species that do not.

Heathrow actively manages more than 170 hectares across 13 sites for nature conservation, including four areas that are open for local people to enjoy, as well as the protection of over 2,440 species of flora, fauna and fungi on its sites. In 2015 alone, over 250 species new to the airport have been discovered.

Within landside areas of the airport, Heathrow actively manages more than 170 hectares across 13 sites for nature conservation, including four areas that are open for local people to enjoy, as well as the protection of over 2,440 species of flora, fauna and fungi on its sites. In 2015 alone, over 250 species new to the airport have been discovered.

Each of our biodiversity sites has its own habitat management plan that guides our conservation efforts. These plans run for 5 years, are monitored frequently to assess their impact and are revised after each 5 year period to make sure our actions are appropriate and deliver maximum biodiversity benefit. Outside of the airport our work with partners is very diverse ranging from coordinated surveys and sharing of information, volunteering and joint initiatives and projects.

Wow, 250 new species – that’s a lot! Do you have a favourite?

Well I don’t go in for cute and fluffy, so of all the species I added to the list in 2015 I would have to pick something like the Black Arches, a stunning looking moth, or the Scarlet Elf Cup, a vivid red fungus. Though every time I find something new that sort of becomes the current favourite!

What are the exciting plans for the future?

We believe expansion would create a bigger and better Heathrow, and provide once-in-a-generation opportunities to enhance and add to these biodiversity areas, ultimately creating a 15-mile green corridor.

This would create significant areas of new and enhanced habitats, providing publicly accessible green space for local residents and wildlife. Taken together the plans would result in an area that is approximately four times the size of London’s Hyde Park.

The green spaces within Heathrow’s expansion plans highlighted.

Of course, in terms of our plans for a third runway at Heathrow, we have also thought about how best to mitigate the effects of the development on local rivers and flood protection.

We have produced a plan to enhance the quality of rivers, biodiversity and landscape and our measures will protect people and properties against flooding, offering the potential for an improved situation compared to today, particularly for the residents of Colnbrook and Poyle.

Each month we’ll be bringing you a new piece from Adam with pictures and highlights from Heathrow managed biodiversity areas.

Heathrow colleagues have been abseiling down Terminal 5 today as part of the Heathrow Duke of Edinburgh Fitbit Challenge launch!

Over 100 Heathrow colleagues, including CEO John Holland-Kaye, have today abseiled from the Terminal 5 departures level balcony to the ground as part of Duke of Edinburgh Award Diamond Anniversary celebrations!

The abseiling was part of a launch event of the airport’s campaign to support the DofE Diamond Challenge, with HRH The Earl of Wessex on hand to help launch the FITBIT Challenge!

As part of the challenge, over 150 Heathrow colleagues will walk, run, cycle and/or row the equivalent distance of individual destinations from the 180 worldwide destinations available from Heathrow by the end of June.

As a headline Diamond Partner, Heathrow is joining Amey, British Gas and RSM in supporting the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for the next two years.

More about the Duke of Edinburgh award…

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award charity has been dedicated to helping young people give it their all since 1956.

With every challenge they take on, and every DofE Award they work towards, young people from all walks of life are given a chance to shine – helping to open doors and transform their lives as a stepping stone to a brighter future.

Get involved online using #DofEChallenge and tweet us @yourHeathrow!

Heathrow has today released its 2015 full year financial results including revenue of £2,765 million and record passenger satisfaction levels.


  • Heathrow achieves highest passenger service scores ever, making it Europe’s best hub airport;

  • 75 million passengers, a new record and an increase of 2.2% on 2014;

  • Heathrow the only airport in the world to sign the Paris Pledge for Action on climate change;

The financial numbers in short: Revenue up 2.2%, EBITDA up 3%

Heathrow’s revenue (£2,765m) increased by 2.2% in 2015 while EBITDA (Earnings Before Interests, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) rose 3% to over £1.6bn.

The strong financial results came on the back of record passenger numbers, good retail income growth and strong underlying cost control. Heathrow lowered costs in the second half of the year and benefited as a result.

Over the course of 2015, Heathrow has secured cost efficiencies expected to be worth £170 million over the 2014-2018 regulatory period, taking the total secured to over £450 million, out of a target of £600 million.

We have further developed our income streams and secured over £150 million in additional commercial revenue out of a target of £270 million.

2015 Overview

2015 was a very good year for Heathrow as we made excellent progress towards our aim of giving passengers the best airport service in the world. Passengers ranked the quality of service at Heathrow the highest of Europe’s hub airports and Heathrow was named the Best Airport in Western Europe by Skytrax.

Overall in 2015 we welcomed a record 75.0 million passengers and on five separate days over a quarter of a million passengers used Heathrow!

We delivered record passenger satisfaction and operational reliability improved even with our busiest days ever. Overall in 2015 we welcomed a record 75.0 million passengers and on five separate days over a quarter of a million passengers used Heathrow!

Passengers had even greater choice in 2015, with new airlines, new destinations and more seats available per flight. We welcomed Vietnam Airlines moving its London services to Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi from Gatwick to benefit from the transfer traffic and cargo at Heathrow. British Airways started a new service to Kuala Lumpur and in March 2016, Garuda Airlines will also move its London flights from Gatwick, bringing Jakarta as a new destination from Heathrow.

Our focus on transforming customer service has covered all aspects of the airport. Passengers are enjoying faster journeys through the airport, with reducing queue times due to more security lanes and parallel loading, improved body scanners and new biometric passport gates in immigration. Our new baggage facility in Terminal 3 helps reduce connection times.

We have also been making our operations more efficient and robust. We have introduced technology and procedures to improve our resilience, including enhanced Instrument Landing Systems, which assist in low visibility, and time-based separation of arriving aircraft to facilitate more landings on windy days.

These measures allow a more punctual and complete schedule to be operated, disrupting fewer passenger journeys. Passengers now have unrivalled choice from our award winning retail offering with expanded World Duty Free outlets and new stores including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. We also opened a new business car park and independent lounges in Terminals 4 and 5.

Heathrow wins Eco-Innovation Award

We have made significant progress in 2015 in our commitment to supporting the UK and local economies whilst managing our impacts on communities and the environment.

We were awarded the Eco-Innovation Award by ACI Europe, commending Heathrow for the progress made in reducing emissions from the airport. We are the only airport in the world to sign the Paris Pledge for Action on climate change.

We are leading the way in the airport community by cutting emissions from our own fleet and installing electric vehicle infrastructure. We are also collaborating with airlines, air traffic control and other partners to be quieter, sooner. In 2015, over 99% of flights were operated by the quietest category of aircraft.

Heathrow expansion: Up to £211bn economic benefits and 180,000 UK jobs

Demand to use Heathrow continues to massively outstrip the capacity available with two runways and in July, the Airports Commission gave a unanimous and unambiguous recommendation for Heathrow’s proposal to expand with a third runway to the north west of the existing airport.

The Commission confirmed that expanding Heathrow would have the greatest economic benefit for the UK and can be delivered while reducing noise for local communities and within EU air quality limits.

The Government is now undertaking further analysis on environmental impacts, which is expected to conclude during the summer of 2016. The economic benefit to the UK of expanding Heathrow is up to £211 billion, creating 180,000 jobs nationally, 40,000 new jobs locally and doubling the number of apprenticeships to 10,000.

In December, the UK Government agreed that there is a need for more runway capacity in the south east of England, validating the findings of the Airports Commission. The Government is now undertaking further analysis on environmental impacts, which is expected to conclude during the summer of 2016. The economic benefit to the UK of expanding Heathrow is up to £211 billion, creating 180,000 jobs nationally, 40,000 new jobs locally and doubling the number of apprenticeships to 10,000.

Heathrow has huge support both locally and nationally from business, trade unions, politicians, airlines and the UK construction industry and is ready to deliver.

We have full confidence that expansion can be delivered within tough environmental limits and we will work with the Government to deliver the hub capacity that Britain needs.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye’s response to the results

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer of Heathrow, welcomed the results and said the airport is ready to deliver on a bigger and better Heathrow for the UK with expansion.

“It’s been an excellent year for Heathrow. As we approach our 70th anniversary, our colleagues are delivering the best service we’ve ever achieved to a record number of passengers,” Holland-Kaye said.

“We’re also making strong progress on our environmental commitments by reducing emissions and noise, and another set of robust financial results underpins our plans to make Heathrow the most sustainable hub airport and the UK the best connected country in the world.

I’m confident that this summer the Government will agree with its Airports Commission that expanding Heathrow is the only way to secure Britain’s long-term economic future and meet environmental demands. We stand ready to deliver.”

Heathrow has today also commented on the European Union referendum. To see our statement, click here.

Heathrow has today released a statement on the recently announced United Kingdom referendum on remaining in the European Union.

Heathrow statement:

“Heathrow believes that the UK will be better off remaining in a reformed EU. We are the UK’s hub airport, connecting Britain to over 80 long haul destinations, and handling over a quarter of UK exports – but we recognise that for business to thrive we also need to be part of the single European market.

“Membership of the EU has made air travel affordable and convenient, with regular flights to the continent from all parts of Britain – fuelling jobs, exports and economic growth.

“A vote to remain offers the best of both worlds – it secures our place as a powerhouse in the global economy, while remaining in the world’s largest free trade zone.”

Heathrow has today also released its 2015 financial results. To see the full results, click here.

UPDATE (5th Apr): Network Rail’s consultation is now closed. Click here to see how your journey time to Heathrow is set to improve.

A new public consultation on plans to link the Great Western Mainline directly to Heathrow Terminal 5 is being launched by Network Rail.

Currently, there is no direct rail link from the West to Heathrow and in summer 2012 the government asked the rail industry to develop proposals for a new link to connect the Great Western Main Line to the UK’s hub airport.

Network Rail’s proposal for a new rail tunnel linking the Great Western Main Line at Langley to Heathrow Terminal 5 will speed up journeys to Europe’s busiest airport, by allowing passengers to travel directly to the airport from Reading, Slough and further West while reducing congestion at London Paddington.

The plans also look set to create up to 42,000 new jobs and over £800 million of UK and regional economic benefit*.

Should the scheme go ahead, it will significantly reduce journey times to key locations in the Thames Valley and beyond into the South West and South Wales, giving 20 per cent of the UK population access to Heathrow via one interchange.

Western Rail Access to Heathrow will generate an additional two million rail journeys a year and take close to one million car journeys off the road each year, make CO2 savings equating to approximately 30 million road miles a year.


  • Economic Impact Study: Reading Waterloo Line and Southwest Rail Access to Heathrow (JMP Consultants Ltd, 2014)*
  • Economic Value Study (Atkins, 2011)**

The construction of Heathrow Terminal 5 included a spare rail station that has remained empty since works were completed in 2008 – but what is it for?

This vacant rail station has been safeguarded below ground in Terminal 5 – ready to be used with proposed Southern Rail Access plans.

Southern Rail Access will connect large areas of the south of London that have never had direct rail connections with the airport before including South London, Surrey, Hampshire and the South Coast.

Heathrow’s Chris Joyce being interviewed by BBC 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan in the safeguarded rail station.

With a potential completion date of 2030, a Southern Rail link could connect the Waterloo-Windsor line to Terminal 5, via a new station in Bedfont, with trains running on an elevated track through Bedfont.

There would be two trains an hour between Feltham and Terminal 5, with a journey time of around 13 minutes. Passengers leaving from London Waterloo could be at the the UK’s hub airport in 43 minutes.


Britain’s best connected airport

Heathrow is already the best connected airport in the UK for surface access. By 2032, Heathrow is expected to be connected to 5 different rail lines with the percentage of passengers using public transport estimated to reach almost 60% by 2040 as a result!

With our plans 70% of the UK population will be within 3 hours of Heathrow on public transport alone while the M25 will be transformed.

Upgrades include:

  • Crossrail: The full opening of Crossrail in 2019 will bring the heart of London’s financial district and much of East London within a 60 minute catchment area for Heathrow.
  • HS2: By 2032, Heathrow will be connected to the High Speed Rail network via a new passenger interchange at Old Oak Common providing fast access to the Midlands and improved connectivity to Northern England and Scotland.
  • Southern Rail access: This project will improve connectivity between Heathrow and South London, Surrey, Hampshire and the South Coast.
  • Western Rail access: Providing fast direct access to Heathrow by 2021 for passengers from Slough, Reading and the Thames Valley and further improve journey times to the South West and South Wales.
  • Piccadilly Line upgrades: Will deliver improved frequency and faster journey times.

It’s not easy running Europe’s busiest airport at 98% capacity, but Heathrow’s new Airport Operations Centre (APOC) sits right at the heart of it.

Officially opened in 2014 – in addition to other operations centres across the airport – APOC became a new monitoring and control centre for the entire airport operation with a focus on managing and improving every step of passengers’ journey through Heathrow.

Improving operational performance

Heathrow’s ambition is to continue to reduce delay across the passenger’s end to end journey through the airport.

To achieve this, APOC is able to see the complete Heathrow picture, offering the right information to the right people at the right time, enabling more proactive and effective decision making and making better use of capacity.

For passengers, spending less time ‘holding’ in an aircraft or flowing more smoothly through terminals delivers a better experience of Heathrow.

Passengers are able to take better advantage of the services and facilities on offer at the airport, and are better informed of any changes to their planned journey.

Managing airport operations collaboratively

In being able to see the complete Heathrow picture, APOC  seeks to avert problems before they happen, and manages airport performance in a collaborative way.

Multiple stakeholders sit in APOC, including airlines, NATS, Border Force, the Metropolitan Police and the Highways Agency ensuring that APOC produces results that are best for the airport as a whole.

Controlling the flow

An airport that reacts to events cannot be efficient. Each time something unexpected happens, there is a rush to recover and catch up. APOC takes a different approach by continually course correcting and looking ahead.

Because APOC is one of the sources across the airport of the most up-to-date information, it will also be a home to Heathrow’s first-line response team which deals with issues requiring an immediate response, such as emergency calls, faults, fire and security systems activations.

Their actions feed straight back into APOC which keeps operational teams and the whole airport in the loop if the call-out is likely to affect operations.

Underneath Heathrow’s Terminal 3 a multi-million pound baggage project involving robots is taking place. We took a quick look underground at the state of the art technology and the facts and figures behind it all.

Heathrow is in the process of developing a new T3 baggage system, which when complete will be the most advanced integrated baggage facility in Europe, increasing T3’s baggage handling capacity from 5,200 to 7,200 bags per hour.

Housed in the second tallest building on the airport (the control tower is the first), the system is designed to reduce the time it takes to get bags ready for a flight to 90 minutes or less. It will begin taking transfer bags in 2014, with a phased opening to be complete by 2016.

Bags coming in to the new T3 baggage system will be sorted automatically by size, weight and flight number. They’re then taken by conveyer to be loaded to containers with the help of automated robots.

Originally introduced in the car industry, these state-of-the-art devices load the flight containers by scanning each bag to make sure they’re positioned to make the best possible use of space.

The baggage system at Heathrow comprises of over 30 miles of conveyors and features the latest technology to safely sort and screen over 185,000 bags every day.

The 1.2km baggage tunnel connecting T5 to T3

At 1.2 km long, the tunnel which connects T5 to T3 in the Western Interface Building is the longest inter-terminal transfer tunnel in Europe.

Bags pass through at a rate of up to 25mph, meaning shorter and more predictable connection times – crucial for a busy hub airport with up to a third of passengers transferring at any one time.

The tunnel has resulted in improved baggage connections, and eliminated 120,000 vehicle movements from Heathrow’s road network.

Significantly, the T3 baggage system also has an early bag store with the capacity to hold up to 4,800 bags – adding more resilience into Heathrow’s systems and allowing for more early check-ins in the future.

This isn’t the only innovative project at Heathrow! Why not check out some of our others:

Did you know Heathrow uses reed beds to clean de-icer fluid from airport run-off water before returning it to local watercourses? We’ve taken a look at this innovative approach here.

Come rain or shine, 1,288 flights leave Heathrow airport every day. That means that in the cold weather, de-icing fluid is needed to make sure the planes can take off during the winter months. If untreated, this fluid can cause pollution in the local water courses, effecting local wildlife and waterways.

Mayfield Farm is a leading edge innovative reedbed treatment plant was designed and built to treat de-icer coming from the airport, using natural processes to remove around 7 tonnes of organic pollution each year.

The water containing de-icer coming from the airfield is sent to a set of reed beds where naturally occurring bacteria can break down around 95% of the glycol in the de-icer, leaving clean water that can be sent back into the local watercourses.

BBC 5 Live reporter Lesley Ashmall interview Heathrow’s George Davies about the Mayfield Farm facility.

The facility accelerates this natural process by pumping oxygen directly to the roots of the reeds.

Over the years, larger aircraft and continuously improving procedures have led to an increase in the amount of de-icer we use at Heathrow for both aircraft and the airfield.

To combat the effects of this, we implemented new technology that would “turbo charge” the process by blowing more air in the bed and adding more nutrient to help more bacteria grow.

As well as combining the biodiversity benefits of a natural system with the efficiency of a concrete system, Mayfield Farm is much lower in energy consumption compared to concrete structures, making it cleaner and cheaper to run.

The facility uses state-of-the-art computer technology to monitor and maintain conditions, which can all be controlled via Heathrow’s Airport Operations Centre (APOC).

The technical explanation of the “turbo charge” process …

Originally built in 2001, the Mayfield Farm system was substantially upgraded in 2011 to increase the amount of glycol it can remove by sixfold.

The upgrade included involved installing Forced Bed Aeration (FBA) which increased the amount of oxygen that could be transferred into the water from 2.4-7.7g/cubic metre/day to 165g/cubic metre/day – an increase of 2043%!

Today, 3,500kg of  Biochemical Oxygen Demand can be removed per day, compared to the original capability of 590kg BOD/d.

Find out more about some of the innovative measures Heathrow is using to improve environmental conditions around the airport, here.

Ady Dolan is one of the most recognisable faces of Heathrow. The NATS Air Traffic Controller has featured in multiple documentaries and broadcasts from the airport. Ady features on tomorrow night’s BBC 5 Live programme (#5LiveHeathrow) so we thought we’d catch up with the Air Traffic Controller to find out what he loves about his job, his favourite moment at Heathrow, and why Concorde is his favourite aircraft. Enjoy!

How long have you been an Air Traffic Controller for?

15 years

Best thing about your job? 

The view’s not bad! The people that I work with make it a great place to be.

How did you become an Air Traffic Controller?

I was working at Newcastle Airport in my university break, and I decided to learn to fly. As part of the pilot’s licence training, I was taken on a visit to the Air Traffic Controller, and as soon as I walked in I knew that it’s what I wanted to do. You’re right in the middle of the action, with the best view on the airfield.

What makes a good Air Traffic Controller?

Someone who is able to make sound decisions in a short space of time, who is calm under pressure. Most important of all though, is someone who is able to work really well as part of a bigger team.

You’ve been involved in television and radio shows, seen the Red Arrows fly past … the list goes on. What’s been your favourite moment in your ATC career to date?

The events surrounding the retirement of a Concorde. The last few weeks were great fun, culminating in the three final Concordes landing in sequence. I worked on the BBC broadcast, and spoke live on air to the crew of the final aircraft. Whilst it was an awesome sight, it was also a very poignant occasion.

Favourite aircraft?

It has to be Concorde. No matter whether it was your first visit to Heathrow or you’d been here for 30 years – everything stopped to watch Concorde.

You’ve taken some spectacular pics from the airport, do you have a favourite?

Not really, I just try to capture things that look interesting or different, which you might not be able to see from any other vantage point.

What do you use when taking your photos? And any tips for others?

Just an iPhone! Some of the guys at work take some amazing photos with some fantastic kit, but the key is just being in the right place at the right time.

Favourite Film/Tv Show?

Something I watch whenever it’s on TV is the Bourne series of movies, but I have a soft spot for Airplane…. “surely you can’t be serious? I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley”. I love the big boxset series like 24, True Detective and Game of Thrones, but I usually don’t get a choice when the kids are around!

Favourite band?

I’m actually in a band and we play all sorts from eighties’ cheese to rock and funk, but if I had to choose something to stick on in the car on the way home from work, it would have to be AC/DC.

Any Pets?

No, but the kids are hassling me to get them one. I’m thinking tortoise.

For information on Air Traffic Control careers with NATS please click here.

Get involved with BBC 5 Live tonight using #5LiveHeathrow and follow us @yourHeathrow.

Also check out @AdyDolan and @NATSPressOffice for more spectacular pics and content from air traffic controllers!


By Heathrow

Published 19th February 2016