People living near Heathrow airport are facing four months of "noise and disruption" as more than 1,000 boreholes are drilled into the ground to see if it is suitable for building a third runway.
Hillingdon Council has issued the warning to residents living in the south of the borough they will have to put up with the drilling even before a decision to approve expansion has been made by the government.
The council says it has sought to prevent the proposed works on its land on behalf of residents, but its protest was overruled by the Secretary of State.
The council issued a statement saying: “There will be increased noise and disruptive activity by Heathrow Airport contractors working on borehole sites on land identified for possible Heathrow expansion."
Council leader Ray Puddifoot said: “When the Secretary of State quashed our protest, the government allowed Heathrow access to various and vast areas of Hillingdon for their ground investigations These investigations do not relate to any approved scheme and presume Heathrow will expand, against all wisdom given the disastrous effects this will have on noise and air quality.”
The drilling does not require planning permission to proceed and each borehole will be worked on for a maximum of four days.
Heathrow Airport Limited says it needs to drill the boreholes to determine ground conditions, investigate water tables and to take soil samples, adding that it will do everything possible to minimise disruption for residents.
A spokesperson said: “We are carrying out land surveys during office hours in areas around the airport as a necessary part of preparing proposals for Heathrow’s expansion.
"We apologise to any local residents that are affected by this work, and we are working with our contractors to ensure there is as little disruption as possible."
It is the latest development in the long saga which has seen Hillingdon Council and a raft of councils, campaigners and residents’ groups lobby against the building of a third runway. Many others insist that it must not go ahead unless stringent environmental controls are introduced.
Mr Puddifoot says Hillingdon council’s position is to support expansion at an alternative site such as Gatwick largely because of the environmental damage and traffic congestion it says a third runway would inflict on the borough.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said that if Parliament backs a Heathrow expansion, construction work could begin at the end of Britain’s EU withdrawal transition period in December 2020.
In March this year the transport select committee published its long-awaited scrutiny of the government’s plans. It supported the case of pushing on with the development of a third runway, but demanded the government redraft its plans before they are voted on in parliament.
This vote is now expected in the summer.
The Heathrow spokesperson added: “Over the coming months we will be developing our preferred masterplan for consultation next year, a process that will involve continuous engagement and input from key stakeholders including neighbouring communities.”