Anger as Heathrow’s latest flight path trials subject thousands to unacceptable noise levels
Heathrow is conducting trials of new flight paths, both to the west and to the east of the airport. Since the easterly trial started (28th July) and the westerly trial started (25th August) the airport has been swamped with complaints. The complaints line can no longer cope. For many people, there has been a sudden and unacceptable increase in noise. The changed, concentrated, routes have been blamed for the “unacceptable and intolerable” noise above a number of Surrey villages. Some of the worse affected areas to the west are Englefield Green, Egham, Thorpe, Virginia Water, Windlesham, Bagshot, Lightwater, Sunninghill and Ascot. Petitions to the airport have been set up in Ascot, Lightwater and now in Englefield Green, asking that the trials be stopped. People feel that even after the end of the trials that ended in June, the increased noise from them has continued. People living under the new, concentrated, routes are now subjected to more, louder, aircraft noise as late as 11.50pm and as early as 6am. The purpose of all this is to get more flights off Heathrow’s runways, so the airport can be more profitable for its foreign owners.
Anger as Heathrow’s latest flight trials fill skies over Surrey villages
New trial Heathrow flight paths have been blamed for the “unacceptable and intolerable” noise above a number of Surrey villages
Villagers in Surrey are set for a showdown with bosses from Heathrow Airport after an “unacceptable” increase in aircraft noise.
Heathrow is trying out new flight paths over Surrey and Berkshire, which are reportedly affecting households in Englefield Green, Egham, Thorpe, Virginia Water, Windlesham, Bagshot, Lightwater, Sunninghill and Ascot.
Complaints have poured in from Windlesham, Bagshot and Lightwater – as well as from further afield – all speaking of a sudden spike in noise levels.
Hundreds of residents have signed a petition, launched by Lightwater resident Rosalie James, who has also set up a website and helped arrange a meeting with Heathrow officials after becoming sick of the racket.
She explained how, earlier this year, Heathrow trialled a number of routes directly above the three villages.
This came to an end in June, but Miss James said plane activity had not returned to pre-trial levels.
A new trial, split into two phases and more directly affecting the Ascot and Sunningdale area, has since got under way, but Miss James said it was this “sustained increase” in activity that had riled people.
“Flights are passing overhead lower, louder and later than ever before, disturbing all aspects of everyday life,” she said. “They continue as late as 11.50pm and as early as 6am.
“There has been no consultation and this latest trial seems to be forcing traffic down narrower paths, which means there is greater disparity between who is and isn’t affected.
“It is unacceptable and intolerable. We all accept we live 20 miles from Heathrow. But none of us bought our houses in the knowledge we would find ourselves beneath a formal flight path.”
Miss James has written to MP for Surrey Heath Michael Gove, who has referred the matter to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, and has also received the backing of the Windlesham Society.
The latest trials will continue until late January, although there are no plans for formal consultation by Heathrow until 2016.
A tentative date of October 15 has been set for a public meeting, to be held in the Ascot area.
A similar petition, launched in Englefield Green, has attracted more than 1,000 supporters and founder, Jane Snell, said residents were aiming to gain the support of local councilors and Runnymede and Weybridge MP Philip Hammond in showing local animosity towards the airport.
“Last weekend they were hammering over Englefield Green, from Friday to Monday,” said Mrs Snell, of Cooper’s Hill. “Some of the flight paths have been changed, on a personal level it has been fairly intolerable, it’s really difficult to hear other people speaking and makes the garden virtually unusable – it becomes a no-go area at the moment when they take off.
“In June we noticed a big increase and there was another trial from the end of August, it’s the current trial that’s bringing them over Englefield Green,” she said.
“It’s a really nice residential area and we moved in 12 years ago from Datchet and friends moved from Windsor to get away from plane noise, now it’s coming over us.”
Mrs Snell said there has been no communication from Heathrow with residents regarding the new flight paths and branded the proposed new routes as “the destruction of a lovely Surrey village.”
“Many of the surrounding villages have had meetings about public consultations but absolutely nothing in Englefield Green,” she said.
Wendy Richardson, from Harvest Road, is a full-time home worker and said the trial made working in the garden over the summer impossible.
“You either have to raise your voice or wait for (the plane) to go past,” she said. “To change something that’s going to have such a big impact on people’s lives and not have any consultation at all, I think is appalling.
Mrs Richardson described the planes as flying over in a “three-pronged” direction over her garden.
“Some people have been commenting because they are at the top of the hill and their house is physically shaking,” she said.
An exhibition event to showcase Heathrow’s third runway proposals will take place in Egham on October 7 from 2pm to 9pm in St Paul’s Church Hythe Centre.
The Heathrow website says:
Heathrow’s airspace trials
When and where will the trials take place?
Between now and 2016, we’re running a series of trials as part of the government’s plan to modernise UK airspace. Our aim is to improve the airspace around Heathrow for the good of everyone: passengers, airlines and neighbouring communities.
During the trials some people will experience more noise, others will experience less. The important point to note is that what you experience during the trials is not indicative of how Heathrow’s final airspace will look or sound. The final decision is several years away and will be taken by the government, not Heathrow.
As the trials progress, we’ll be sharing results on our website and through public briefings.
Trials timeline and schedules
To help you find out if and when you’re likely to be affected, we’ve produced a trial timeline and a series of schedules describing what we’ll be doing in each set of trials.
Download our indicative trials timeline (148KB PDF)
Westerly departure trial 2: 25 August 2014 – 26 January 2015
Our second westerly departure trial tests:
- Satellite-based navigation / Performance-based navigation
- Noise respite.
Download the Westerly departure trial 2 (1MB PDF)
Easterly departure trial 2: 28 July 2014 – 26 January 2015
Our second easterly departure trial tests:
- Satellite-based navigation / Performance-based navigation
- Resilience on 3 easterly departure routes
Download the Easterly departure trial 2 (611KB PDF)
Easterly and westerly departure trial 1: 16 December 2013 – 15 June 2014
Our first two trials tested:
- Satellite-based navigation / Performance-based navigation
- Our ability to provide predictable noise respite on aircraft departures.
Download the Departures trial 1 (2.02MB PDF)
Comments and feedback
When the trials are over, we’ll be submitting options for public consultation in 2016. But you don’t have to wait till then. If you have any thoughts or feedback on our trials or on any aspect of airspace modernisation, call our Community Relations team on 0800 344844.
Some recent news stories about Heathrow noise:
Teddington petition to Heathrow to stop the easterly departures trial and not allow it to become permanent
Finding themselves now affected by a newly concentrated flight path for Heathrow easterly departures, people in Teddington are now up in arms about the intensified noise. The trial started on 28th July and is due to last till 15th January 2015. They have set up a petition, to Heathrow, to ask that the current noise level does not continue. The flight path trials are part of the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) with the aim of getting ever more planes using Heathrow, more efficiently. People in Teddington are angry that Heathrow have stated that: “Before the trials started in December last year we briefed local authorities; residents groups; campaign groups and MPs around Heathrow” yet Heathrow will not provide any details on who was contacted and when. In reality most people were not informed or warned. They would have liked to have been informed (so much for airports stating how much better they are getting at communication with communities ….). The affected residents are calling on Heathrow to halt these trials as soon as possible due to the negative impact on the quality of life they are causing for many people. They also call on Heathrow to recommend that the flight path changes are not made permanent.
Formula 1 boss’s fury over new Heathrow aircraft noise – at least with Formula 1 people know where the noise is
A significant Formula One car racing engineer, who lives in Sunninghill under a Heathrow flight path test route, has joined an increasing band of residents complaining about the new flight paths over Bracknell and Ascot. He describes them as “intolerable”. The chief technical officer at Formula One team Red Bull Racing has hit out at Heathrow after its new trial flight paths started last Thursday, for 5 months. The aims of the trials are to try to reduce ‘stacking’, speeding up departure times to cut departure intervals, so increasing airport profits. He said though having lived in Sunninghill since 1997 and the noise has never been an issue before. “It is pretty intolerable because currently we have planes flying over our heads at 11pm at night …. it’s very antisocial really. ….I can’t even sit in my garden and socialise with my friends because it is just too noisy. There has been no proper consultation…” Realising he himself works in a very noisy industry, he said “… with Formula One is that there are no new race tracks being built anywhere, so people who buy houses next to race tracks know what they are getting.” There is an active petition in the Ascot area against the flight path trials, with around 2,400 signatures today.
In the 3 Villages area (Lightwater, Windlesham and Bagshot) residents have been impacted both by the latest trials – that started on 28th August 2014 – as well as those which ended on 15th June.
With local feelings running high, people in this began a campaign and now also have an online petition with links from their website at www.aircraftnoiselightwater.co.uk
Following contact with John Holland-Kaye in early August, the campaign has secured a meeting with Cheryl Monk, (Head of Community Relations and Policy) to which residents of all affected areas are invited (both 3 Villages and Ascot will attend) – to be held on 15th October (time and venue to be confirmed).
There is a Change.org petition to the Heathrow complaints team, here They say:
“Flights are passing overhead, lower, louder and later than ever before disturbing all aspects of everyday life. Flights continue as late as 11.30pm and as early as 6am – a period when a reasonable person expects the right to peace and quiet.
“Local residents are now opposed to any more expansion at Heathrow and call for an IMMEDIATE end to the flight path trial!”
Ascot area residents’ petition to end new Heathrow flight path trial
Residents in the area in and around Ascot (not far from Heathrow) have a Change.org petition asking that the new Heathrow flight path trial, which started in the last few days, should immediately be ended. It is causing considerable noise nuisance, and making life there unpleasant.
Residents can see the planes very clearly from their gardens, and the noise is so loud now it disturbs any conversation they have outside.
Heathrow flight path changes / trial inflict more noise misery on Ascot area
Heathrow airport and NATS are experimenting with flight path changes and new technology systems for Heathrow flights. The aim is to reduce ‘stacking’ of aircraft waiting to land, and to speed up departure times, getting more planes in the air per hour – in order make the airport more efficient (or more profitable). There is a series of trials, over a period of years from 2012 to 2017, advertised on Heathrow’s website. They are to inform the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) consultation. One trial, for departures to the west, started on 28th August and will last till January 2015. It will test how sharply aircraft are able to turn on take-off and how fast they can climb. The results will be factored into Heathrow’s revision of flight paths that are required under the European ‘SESAR’ programme. The reality for people being over-flown is that there are now more aircraft passing over Ascot, Sunningdale and Sunninghill, and these planes are low (around 3,000 feet) and climbing. The gaps between planes are also shorter than before. A petition has been set up by people in the Ascot area, to get the trial ended immediately. The new noise barrage has created new fears in those areas of the impact of a 3rd runway.
Heatwave blamed for record number of complaints about Heathrow noise
Heathrow anti-noise group, HACAN, says nearly 300 people contacted it during July to complain about aircraft noise, more than three times the monthly average. The weather was warm in the south east in July, with a good summer. That means people spent more time outside, and they slept with windows open. That led to even more awareness of aircraft noise than there is in cooler weather. The record number of noise complaints was due to a combination of warm temperatures and a record 6.97 million passengers using Heathrow during July. John Stewart, Chair of HACAN said: “It puts into perspective Heathrow’s current consultation on compensation if a 3rd runway is ever built. You simply can’t compensate people for the disturbance of planes thundering over as they sit in their gardens trying to enjoy the summer sunshine….. Just imagine how much worse the noise could be with a third runway and at least 250,000 more flights each year using Heathrow.” Heathrow itself received 603 complaints about noise in July, only a slight rise on the 578 made during July 2013. They acknowledge that: …”an airport of the size and importance of Heathrow can have downsides for people living nearby.”