Camberwell resident Bridget Bell is the driving force behind a local campaign to reduce air noise and pollution over Camberwell and South London. Bridget, of John Ruskin Street, first had her sleep disturbed by aircraft over her house in July. Since then they have woken her up “nearly every night”.
Here she tells us about what it is like living directly under a flight path and the impact it is having on her quality of life.
Bridget (middle) appearing with two neighbours in Southwark News
It began in July 2016 when I noticed an unusual number of planes flying over my house, almost without a break and starting as early as 4.30am. Near neighbours had noticed something similar but were affected differently due to the layout of their houses and the angle of the flight path. And, of course, some people are oblivious.
I have lived at the same address for 30 years and had you told me that Oval is one of the most densely overflown areas in London I would have looked at you blankly. Bar the odd helicopter and the very rare commercial plane that I imagined had gone off course or was on an emergency route I was not aware of planes, full stop.
CAN CAUSE THE AIR TO BOIL WITH PLANE TURBULENCE AND NOISE
This new regime of planes flying over me happened occasionally to begin with but really kicked into action at the start of September 2016. Since then there has been no break apart from the odd series of days when there is an easterly wind and planes approach Heathrow from the west. The disturbance is compounded by City Airport planes using a dedicated route, slightly wide of my house (think noise ghetto) that was instigated, without local consultation, sometime last year and can cause the air to boil with plane turbulence and noise as City and Heathrow flight arrivals whine through the narrow airspace low overhead.
A visual representation of aircraft movement linked to Heathrow
My approaches to the Heathrow Community Noise Forum and to CAA have returned essentially the same response: nothing has changed in flight heights, numbers, timings, approach i.e. that I, the resident, am mistaken.
My MP Harriet Harman has been in touch with the Department for Aviation; Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem member on the London Assembly, and John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, have also made approaches to Heathrow. They, too, have been told ‘nothing has changed’.
But I, and many others in SE5, know that something has. I also know that none of the Heathrow or Governmental decision makers has been anywhere near SE5 to experience the situation as it is on the ground.
I DREAD GOING TO BED
Am I affected? Undoubtedly. The impact on my quality of life has been enormous. My sleep is disturbed; being awake from 4.30am, morning after morning, results in my getting up at 7am (when I would normally be woken by my alarm), feeling disorientated, losing my sense of balance, walking into furniture and failing to think clearly. I find myself tearful at work and with friends through sheer exhaustation.
If I can, I go to bed early in order to get in the hours of sleep necessary to function well, that is if I am so tired that I am not disturbed by the flights continuing up to 11.30pm. I often feel physically sick. I wake in the night and weep, deeply depressed at finding myself relentlessly assaulted by the noise of planes, often hearing them so close that they might almost be coming in to my bedroom.
I dread going to bed. I sometimes dread leaving work, knowing that my haven of a home is now just an unquiet scenario of ceaseless plane activity.
There are moments when I almost lose the will to live, stop making plans to see friends or visit museums – all the sorts of things that I have enjoyed as a London resident.
It is the support of family, friends and colleagues that keeps me going as well as the quiet outrage I feel at being told that ‘nothing has changed’, that noise is ‘not a problem in SE5’, that because I am outside an arbitrarily-decided ‘noise contour’ I am not eligible for a monitor to measure plane noise and activity, quite apart being treated inhumanely and patronisingly by a small number of people who know the truth but find it inconvenient to acknowledge and do anything about.
Five hours’ sleep combined with the endless whine of planes between 4.30am until 11.30pm is sheer hell.
If you want to find out more about the campaign, or are affected by similar issues faced by Bridget, click here.
PLANE HELL: TOO EARLY, TOO LATE, TOO NOISY, TOO LOW… TOO MANY!
Anyone living under a flight path will tell you one thing: it’s plane hell. For residents of Camberwell and other parts of South London it’s fast becoming a nightmare.
The Plane Hell campaign was born in response to local residents noticing an increase in the number of planes flying over a particular area of Camberwell, almost without a break, and starting as early as 4.30am.
The main issue for Southwark is noise from overflying aircraft on approach to land at Heathrow and London City Airports.
To get an idea about what it’s like to experience ongoing disruption as a result of plane noise then click here for the thoughts of local resident Bridget Bell.
- Enable residents to achieve at least 7 hours sleep, the minimum recommended by WHO (World Health Organisation) for good health, and ban all flights between 11pm – 6am (better still 7am).
- Ensure any remaining night routes avoid populated areas to mitigate the impact of aircraft noise.
- Keep aircraft higher for longer by utilising Continuous Descent Approaches which reduce noise because they require less engine thrust and keep planes above 6000 feet.
- Stop aircraft concentrating over residential areas.
- Stop the impact on mental and physical health caused by aircraft noise and aircraft pollution flying low over residential areas and keep planes above 6000 feet.
- Take the whine out of arriving aircraft.
A plane flying low over Bethwin Road
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Click here to sign the online petition addressed to the Minister for Aviation.
WRITE TO YOUR MP
Individuals, countrywide, have been encouraged to write to their MPs to underline the negative impact night flights and lack of respite from daytime flights have on the health and welfare of their constituents, with the added effect on the environment.
You can download a template letter here – please feel free to make any changes or add your own text.
To find out who your local MP is click here.
There are currently no MPs in the House of Commons due to the dissolution of Parliament on 3 May 2017. This means that every seat in the Commons is vacant until after the general election on 8 June 2017 – but Campaigners urge you to respond to both Consultations, below, by 25 May 2017.
The Government is currently consulting on two aspects of airspace/aviation policy.
It will take no more than 5 minutes if you are content to cut and paste the Key points and send them to the relevant email address, always asking for an acknowledgement of receipt, and always giving your contact details. And / or make your own points – we all feel differently.
1. Respond to what is essentially a consultation on a 3rd runway at Heathrow and entitled the National Policy Statement
Key points to make in response:
• A third runway would bring many more people under new flight paths.
• The half day’s break from the planes which many communities currently enjoy would probably be cut to a third.
• A 7-hour night ban should be the very minimum, with no flights under any circumstances apart from mayday emergencies before 6.30am.
• Noise should be the key issue up until at least 7,000ft for any planes flying below this.
• The consultation should have included information as to where the new flight paths should be.
• Heathrow will struggle to comply with air pollution limits if a third runway is built.
• A third runway would require the destruction of at least 783 homes.
• Billions of pounds of taxpayers money would be needed for new rail and road infrastructure.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Freepost Runway Consultation
2. Respond to the Airspace Policy Consultation
This does not just cover Heathrow. It is a national consultation. It deals with 5 key issues:
- the principles that should be used when flight paths are introduced
- the concentration of flight paths
- the key areas where noise should be given priority over other issues
- an Independent Noise Authority
- and revised metrics to assess noise annoyance.
Key points to make in response:
• Support the proposal for much more public engagement before new flight paths are introduced or changes are made to existing flight paths.
• Support multiple routes to avoid concentration over particular communities.
• Underline that noise should be the key issue up until at least 7,000ft for any planes flying below this.
• Support the setting up of an Independent Noise Authority but will require guarantees that it will be truly independent and will have teeth.
• Support new metrics to replace the current 57 decibel noise contour as ‘the onset of community annoyance’ by a less-than 46 decibel noise contour which will reflect more accurately the areas where noise is a problem.
Campaigners are currently looking to gather as much evidence as possible to strengthen their case. This includes encouraging those who live under flight paths, and experience the adverse effects of plane noise, to record a diary of all of the incidents in which they are disturbed.
GET IN TOUCH
If you are experiencing issues with planes flying overhead then please do get in touch and offer your support to the campaign.
CAMPAIGN SO FAR
Through SE5 Forum’s stand at the Camberwell Saturday’s Farmers Market almost 400 signatures in two months have been collected for a petition headed ‘Too low, too noisy, too early, too late – too many’ and have been sent with the petition letter to Lord Ahmad, Minister for Aviation, and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.
Harriet Harman, Helen Hayes, Neil Coyle and Kate Hoey have been asked to work together to help have a debate or least ensure that residents’ responses to the recent night flights consultation are not ignored. Additionally, with regard to flights arriving at Heathrow, campaigners are looking for flight paths to be no lower than 6000 feet in the approaches over SE5 and more widely across Southwark.
You can sign the petition here