2nd Gatwick runway could ‘spell the end’ for Hever Castle as a tourist attraction due to the relentless aircraft noise
Date added: 14 December, 2013
A 2nd runway at Gatwick could “spell the end” for one of the area’s top tourist attractions, Hever Castle, which was the home of Anne Boleyn. The castle’s chief executive Duncan Leslie fears the increase in planes overhead could ruin the historic castle and gardens, due to the relentless, almost non-stop noise. To make the situation still worse, planes enter the airport’s ILS landing system close to Hever, and tend to come up into it from below, with extra engine noise, especially if simultaneously making a turn. Duncan Leslie explained that when visitors come to rural attractions they are expecting a degree of peace and tranquillity. However, with the flight path for Gatwick – just some 13 miles away – over the castle and its grounds, visitors are being deterred. Already putting on outdoor theatre is almost impossible, as the plays are interrupted every couple of minutes. A group of Chinese tour operators visiting Hever had said they were astonished that the Government allowed aircraft to fly low over Hever. A high proportion of Hever’s visitors are from overseas. Mr Leslie said: “If our internationally popular tourist attractions become noise ghettoes, it does not matter how big the airports are, we will not get more tourists coming here.” Mr Leslie has asked his local council, Sevenoaks, to oppose Gatwick’s plans for a 2nd runway. . Tweet
Gatwick runway could ‘spell the end’ for Hever Castle tourism
A SECOND runway at Gatwick Airport could “spell the end” for one of the area’s top tourist attractions.
Hever Castle’s chief executive Duncan Leslie fears the increase in planes overhead could ruin the historic castle and gardens with non-stop noise.
Gatwick, the world’s busiest single-runway airport, proposed building a second runway in July to the Airport Commission, which is looking at how to increase air travel capacity around London. A second runway could almost double the number of planes taking off and landing each hour.
Duncan Leslie said: “When people come to rural attractions they are expecting a degree of peace and tranquillity. The planes increasing in number would damage the business.”
Mr Leslie has now written to Sevenoaks District Council urging them to oppose Gatwick’s plans. The letter states: “We believe that a second runway would almost certainly spell the end for Hever Castle as a visitor attraction.”
“We are one of the nation’s favourite heritage attractions,” Mr Leslie added. “People come from all over the world to see it but it’s spoilt with these aeroplanes. If they treble the amount of aeroplanes it’s not going to be very tranquil and that’s going to make it very difficult for Hever to compete.”
Hever Castle supports up to 280 jobs in season and while it is currently profitable, Mr Leslie said any increase in aircraft noise could prove fatal. He believes a second runway could mean one low-flying aircraft over Hever ever minute.
“It’s all about the last 10% – the final 10% of visitors in a good year is what makes a profit,” he said. “But that is threatened if it gets a lot noisier. It would take us from being successful to really struggling.”
The council is due to vote on their position on a second runway at Gatwick on Tuesday.
Mr Leslie said: “I hope Sevenoaks District Council will support us and hopefully the powers that be will put a greater value on our heritage – it’s not something you can replace. I think we risk losing a very important part of that history if we put the commerce of one airport ahead of that.”
A spokesman from the council said: “We have previously raised concerns about the impact of additional flights operating from Gatwick because of the potential noise and disturbance affecting our communities and businesses in the south of the district.
“Our Local Planning and Environment Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss the (second runway) proposals before we make a formal response. The letter from Hever Castle will be presented to the committee as part of their discussions.”
Grant Payne, a Gatwick Airport spokesman, told the Courier they were undertaking studies to look at minimising the environmental impact, including noise disruption, of different runway options.
“Any new runway option, at Gatwick or elsewhere, will have some noise impacts,” he said. “However, with a second runway at Gatwick there would still be significantly fewer people affected by noise than at Heathrow, for example.”
Mr Payne added Gatwick took noise complaints seriously and was working hard to combat it through schemes such as blight compensation and domestic noise insulation.
“We have the double whammy that apparently to enter the ILS the planes have to do so from below and so we get the noise of the aircraft parrying up to make their turn, as well as rising up into the ILS. Despite the fact that we put a man on the moon over 40 years ago, they have not worked out how to get an aeroplane to drop into an ILS from above.”
“My concern is that aircraft flying over e very minute would create a reputation for Hever Castle as a place of noise and ugly aeroplanes. It totally goes against the whole point of having an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the impact of the aircraft noise here is felt much more than it would be in an urban environment. Hever Castle does not even have a “B” road within a mile of it and I would have thought that being this close to London (21 miles as the crow flies), it should be given special treatment, especially as it is within an AONB.”
“It seems ironic to me that one of the reasons so many people are championing expansion of the airports is to increase tourism. When visiting Hever Castle, one large group of Chinese tour operators said that they were astonished that the Government allowed aircraft to fly low over Hever Castle. If our internationally popular tourist attractions become noise ghettoes,it does not matter how big the airports are, we will not get more tourists coming here. The special places this country has, such as those in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are, by their very definition, the sort of places that tourists are most likely to visit. They should be properly protected, especially those which have tourist attractions with in them.”
Below is an image captured off Flightradar24 http://www.flightradar24.com showing a plane coming in to land at Gatwick, right over Hever. This plane is at approximately 3,500 feet (FL 035).
The plane shown below approaching Hever is at 4,800 feet.
Hever Parish Council says:
Hever Parish is affected if the wind is in the wrong direction by noise of aircraft landing at Gatwick airport. In recent years this noise seems to have intensified. Some in the parish are far more affected than others due to the location of their properties, if you are affected it is important that you make Gatwick aware of it. The statistics of complaints and comments are recorded but if you don’t contact airport via the contact details below, you will not be on the list!
The Parish Council are working with the airport and local groups to try to achieve a reduction in the noise experienced in the parish. An atmosphere more conducive to change is prevailing with the election of a Conservative Government and a new noise meter has recently been fitted in the Parish by Gatwick.
Anne Boleyn’s childhood home has survived Henry VIII’s wrath, centuries of neglect and two world wars.
But Hever Castle in Kent is facing a new threat from the air as peaceful family days out are shattered by the incessant roar of jets heading for Gatwick Airport, just 10 miles away.
Campaigners and management say the noise from aircraft is strangling its appeal as a tourist attraction and filming location. Its open-air theatre company is considering moving on because members are tired of having their performances ruined by overhead noise.
Robert Pullin was managing director at Hever for more than 20 years before stepping down earlier this year. He said: “There is no doubt that there has been an impact on the business, and an environmental impact on the buildings and gardens.
“If you’re out on a family picnic in the gardens, what would be a tranquil setting is totally ruined.”
He said the castle has lost lucrative business from film makers. “How can these people film out in the open with an aeroplane going over every two minutes?” he said.
Worst affected is the open-air theatre, which hosts musicals and plays throughout the summer. “What could be better than orchestral music in the peace and quiet of the countryside? But then you get to the romantic part of a recital and the music is drowned out by a 747,” said Mr Pullin.
One orchestral performance was interrupted 36 times by planes flying overhead last summer. Ron Palmer, the managing director of the Hever Lakeside Theatre, estimates that his ticket sales are 10 per cent down because of the noise.
“I’m semi-sympathetic to those who complain if they spend £20 on a performance which is completely ruined.
“We have been here for 23 years, but there is a real possibility that we would have to move if the problem gets any worse.”
The castle’s staunchest defender is David Baron, the founder of the Gatwick Anti-Noise Group. Mr Baron, who lives in Hever village, has had a noise meter installed in his garden by the British Airports Authority (BAA), which runs Gatwick. Noise levels of 70 decibels – about the same as a vacuum cleaner – are regularly recorded.
Mr Baron said: “It doesn’t sound like much, but every two minutes it is very, very annoying. The real problems started a year ago, when the flight path was narrowed. Suddenly every single plane went straight over Hever. We have been battling with BAA ever since to get it changed.”
Mr Baron has spoken to pilots, who say they use the castle as a landmark to guide in their jets.
Richard Norman, from the environment, strategy and stakeholder management department at Gatwick, said: “The minimum altitude at which National Air Traffic Services (Nats), who manage the airspace around Gatwick, are permitted to direct aircraft in the Hever area is 2,000 feet.
“In reality this is very seldom the case and the average height of arriving aircraft at Hever is around 3,200 feet.
“Hever is situated approximately 10.5 nautical miles from touchdown. The airport has no jurisdiction to change flight paths. This is set by the Civil Aviation Authority and operational management of airspace is carried out by Nats.”