Blog: Heathrow’s truly negative health impacts on millions of people are not ameliorated by the airport providing local employment
At an event held on 4th July in Parliament, the issue of the noise impact of Heathrow flights on mental health was considered. This is perhaps the first time this has been discussed, and the links made. Heathrow’s Matt Gorman spoke at the meeting, and said Heathrow creates jobs and those employed have better mental health because of their financial security. This spurred Murray Barter, a member of one of the groups that emerged in the past 2 years, due to changes to Heathrow flight paths, to write a blog about the widespread dissatisfaction there is with Heathrow and the way it is dealing with communities. In his impassioned blog, Murray says: “Employment at Heathrow for a minority is not, and cannot be, an antidote to the known adverse impacts on health, well being and quality of life that are caused by the airport’s operations. These affect hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of people living as much as thirty miles from Heathrow.” And “The adverse effects of plane noise on vast numbers of people – including increased incidence of mental stress and depression – cannot, and must not, be swept under the carpet merely because Heathrow provides employment. The good does not outweigh the bad, and attempting to blur the two does Heathrow no credit.” And Heathrow expansion cannot be used as a social experiment in noise torture for the unfortunate minority who find themselves under a “noise canyon” (the CAA’s term). Read the full blog.
Heathrow’s truly negative health impacts on millions of people are not ameliorated by the airport providing local employment
At the event in Parliament on Monday 4th July, looking at the links between exposure to aircraft noise and negative mental health impacts, Matt Gorman (Heathrow’s Director of Sustainability and Environment) was invited to speak.
Matt made the somewhat unrelated point, but one that Heathrow is always keen to promote, that having a job at Heathrow, or associated with it, increases physical and mental well-being. True enough, having a job and financial security is much better for mental stability than the stresses of being unemployed – and having financial problems. But it somewhat misses the point.
What the meeting was about was the impact of aircraft noise, so this employment argument was seen by some as a cheap point and dismissive of the real problems that Heathrow creates for those its planes overfly. Employment at Heathrow for a minority is not, and cannot be, an antidote to the known adverse impacts on health, well being and quality of life that are caused by the airport’s operations. These affect hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of people living as much as thirty miles from Heathrow.
Matt’s attempt to excuse Heathrow’s noise impacts, by job claims, was a stark reminder of how the aviation industry continues to seek to spin every ounce of information/data into a positive – for their own benefit.
The adverse effects of plane noise on vast numbers of people – including increased incidence of mental stress and depression – cannot, and must not, be swept under the carpet merely because Heathrow provides employment. The good does not outweigh the bad, and attempting to blur the two does Heathrow no credit.
There are few bounds to Heathrow’s publicity, propaganda & their deliberate warping of information, data, and science. The incessant advertising shows this, with several adverts and claims found wanting by the Advertising Standards Authority.
One of Heathrow’s most insidious forms of distorting reality is their use of the outmoded and discredited 57dB “average noise contour” measurement, and also how PBN-based flight concentration is deliberately used to gerrymander the apparent reductions in the size of noise contours. (They recently state a range of noise metrics ought to be considered, though their publicity & speeches always stick to the averaged noise contours, as it shows them in the most favourable light. What would be more appropriate are contours showing individual noise events > 50dB, e.g. grouped into > 25, > 50, > 75, > 100 etc. All studies show significant increases in community annoyance at much lower levels than 57 dB. See the ANASE study )
Given this, with aircraft landing and taking off every 90 seconds for 13+ hrs/day, it has become increasing clear that raised risk of mental illness for sections of the population is being wilfully – if unintentionally – delivered by Heathrow.
These negative effects are being glossed over and ignored by the airport and those who back its expansion, who are chiefly :
1). A predominance of MP’s from constituencies north of Bedford & west of Swindon who are simply unaware of the serious issues of noise anguish, and the detrimental impacts of airborne pollution & associated surface access movements. The MPs appear uncaring towards those affected.
2). Businesses salivating at the anticipated honeypot of potential profits, from prospects dangled before them of rising GDP and more exports, or airport construction work. They conveniently ignore the likely disproportionate increase in imports, and the capital & jobs outflows, as do Heathrow – which only considers exports and inbound tourists, and not the reverse.
3). The highly conflicted and aviation-centric DfT & CAA – and the Treasury. (By contrast, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), DEFRA, DCLG, DoH need to deal with the consequences of aviation expansion, with its environmental and social costs).
4). The conflicted Airports Commission, with its Economist-centric staffing bias, coupled with its Chairman who has Prudential board membership . The Commission was given misdirected Terms of Reference (‘to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub’), resulting in only one feasible outcome, given the status quo
Against all this, the tax-paying, law-abiding communities are at the butt end, and in the vast majority of cases, derive no benefit from Heathrow’s operations. The airport has paid lip service to its responsibility to them for decades, never making serious attempts to be a good neighbour. The current Community Noise Forum is the latest in a long line of headline-grabbing, perfunctory talking-shop smokescreens with zero achievement made, after two years and counting.
The Airports Commission didn’t include any economic modelling based upon Brexit, and therefore the discredited, exaggerated and double-counted 60-year economic forecasts need serious and immediate remodelling. That would immediately downgrade Heathrow’s already patently absurd claims of expected GDP growth.
Incidentally, the Airports Commission didn’t seem to take into account the disproportionate increase in imports that would inevitably happen at the same time as any growth in exports, further adding to our net trade deficit, nor the net capital and jobs outflows. It would therefore appear the £24 million Airports Commission report started out as being misdirected, finished as incomplete upon publication, then became obsolete in under 12 months.
Heathrow expansion cannot be used as a social experiment in noise torture for the unfortunate 20% underneath a proposed “noise canyon” (source: the CAA). Those unluckly enough to live in these “canyons” are being subjected to inhuman and/degrading suffering and treatment, through the noise burden inflicted on them. And this excess noise is merely the result of Heathrow, NATS and the CAA attempting to “squeeze a quart into a pint pot” in terms of south east airspace – and enabling Heathrow to meet its allotted (outdated, outmoded, discredited) noise measurement criteria, as set by the government.
What future, 21st century vision do we have for our children and their children in Britain? Are we genuinely serious about schools with adobe huts, as an illusion of outdoor play spaces? Or the desecration of huge areas where instead of homes being places of calm and quiet, they are becoming mental-torture chambers of repetitive noise, where “respite” can shrink to as little as just 4 hours per day without the din? This is not a modern progressive society, which cares for the well-being of all its members, including the most vulnerable.
Heathrow accounts for 28% of people affected by aircraft noise in the whole of Europe. It talks of an £18.7 billion ‘privately funded’ infrastructure project as a boost for the UK economy at this time,. However it, and its business backers, conveniently chooses to omit the ‘elephant in the room’ – the taxpayer requirement of up to £20 billion (Transport for London figure) for regional infrastructure spending needed to support it. Without these improvements in surface transport, the new runway means gridlock and illegal air pollution for miles around the airport.
I’m sure the government has other rather more pressing priorities than this runway, in terms of time & resource allocation, at this present time where most economists are forecasting downturns of economic activity & travel.
If the appropriate question is posed, Heathrow expansion is most certainly NOT the answer
“Is Heathrow Airport one of the:
a). most mendacious and least trusted
b). most polluting
c). most noisy and most complained about
d). worst positioned major source of noise and pollution
companies in UK corporate history?
And are Heathrow’s multi million £ media and lobbying campaigns, glossing over its insuperable problems that are an inevitable consequence of its operations, a satisfactory and sufficient basis for its expansion?
by Murray Barter, Residents Against Aircraft Noise (RAAN)
RAAN is one of the groups set up in 2014 due to the worsening noise from Heathrow airport, affecting new areas in Berkshire, Surrey and North Hampshire. RAAN is involved with the Heathrow Community Noise Forum.