Tunbridge Wells & Bidborough residents, and High Weald parishes unite against Gatwick runway plans
Date added: June 21, 2014
The threat of a 2nd Gatwick runway is a very real one for people living under existing flight paths, and in areas where new flight paths are likely. Now villages 20 miles out to the east from Gatwick have formed an action group to campaign against Gatwick’s expansion plans. The Parish Councils of Chiddingstone, Hever, Leigh and Penshurst have formed the High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group. There is also a new, and highly active, group at Bidborough, BEAG. At a meeting on 17th June in Tunbridge Wells the noise problem of existing an new flights paths was discussed. Local people fear a new Gatwick ‘Superhighway’ route across their area, with some 350 planes per day – all the aircraft arriving at Gatwick from the south – in a concentrated stream above West Kent most of the year from 06:30-11:30 hours without respite. There is real opposition to the noise nuisance, and reduction in the quality of life, of thousands from the flight paths. There is also real concern about the noise’s negative impact on the tourism industries of West Kent – such as the unique and historically valuable Hever Castle and Penshurst Place. . Tweet
Blog Sitting amongst my betters in the majestic surroundings of the main hall at the borough council offices, I was reminded of the poem ‘The Second Coming’ by Yeats:
‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer:’
I was thinking it could be renamed ‘The Second Runway’ instead.
Half of the sixty or so people attending the meeting about aviation noise chaired by KCC member and Kent’s GATCOM representative, Matthew Balfour, were members of the public, the other half district and parish councillors from across Kent and Sussex including Major Streatfeild, Chair of the High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group (HWPCAAG – see below for more detail).
No representative MP’s were present.
Everyone stared towards a central information board. Speakers, including Mr Joe Ratcliffe, Principle Transport Planner for the KCC, referred to various maps that glared red with flight path densities, and the slow bearing of British bureaucracy reflected in the Chairman’s face: everyone looked like amateurs by contrast to the ruthless operations of big business.
Gatwick expansion via the new ‘Superhighway’ route (see below) means about 350 planes per day – ALL southern airport arrivals – in a concentrated stream above West Kent most of the year from 06:30-11:30 hours without respite.
What we were all looking at on the maps was the beautifully stark as well as ugly reality of Gatwick’s pursuit of profit involving the flight of giant lumps of metal burning kerosene, and thereby the expected demise of West Kent’s Tourist and Leisure industries.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has come to this process rather late.
The Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s) of the High Weald and adjacent wildlife areas, together with West Kent’s empirical stately homes, are already significantly compromised by aircraft noise and air pollution.
Aircraft expansion increases Public Health issues for West Kent residents, particularly stress induced effects on cardiovascular health.
Expected property blight could be pronounced as a result of the Superhighway, together with pressure on the learning environment for children in otherwise well performing Tunbridge Wells schools. And even without a second runway, Gatwick plans to increase passenger numbers from 35 million to 45 million over the next couple of years.
Some key points arising from the meeting included:
– Aviation noise (like noise from trains and cars) is not a statutory nuisance
– CAA has legal duties to protect AONB’s from overflight but, from the Government’s Aviation Policy Framework (March 2013) only ‘where practical’ i.e. Gatwick is surrounded by AONB’s
– Noise from planes is mainly measured for departures. All measurements are averages over a 16 hour period. This takes no account of the number of planes flying i.e. neither the Government nor Gatwick acknowledge any noise problem over West Kent and East Sussex. The Government show no intention of changing this outdated method of measurement, despite evidence of bias in favour of aviation companies.
– Gatwick expect a ‘noise shadow’ of 2km from the ‘Superhighway’ of 60dB or more. Planes make more noise when turning. The extent of feeling on the issue of aircraft noise was very apparent throughout the meeting, and especially keen from attending members of the public. Some were from as far afield as Broadwater in south Tunbridge Wells. There were many accounts of how planes are now flying lower and more frequently, together with the sense of wanting to do something about the problem, while at the same time not knowing what.
Parish Councillors, most of them mentioning increased numbers of complaints from their residents about aircraft noise, put forward a number of measures by which noise from planes might be reduced.
Many expressed surprise that there should be such noise disturbances so far from Gatwick airport – a matter of around twenty miles – when at one time Gatwick’s main approach path barely extended beyond East Grinstead, which now has a flight exclusion zone in effect.
I may be an amateur but at least I was there at the TWBC meeting last night. The concluding agreement for better coordination of resistance to Gatwick’s expansion amounted to no more or less than a democratic call to arms: it’s never too late for that.
Especially when it’s a matter of protecting where we live and what we value most.
Plane Superhighway Route over Tunbridge Wells in West Kent – to be imposed any time from August of this year
The black line shows Gatwick’s preferred aeroplane route with chevrons indicating 2km ‘noise shadow’ of sound >60dB, which is larger when planes turn. Most of the airport’s planes will arrive via this route. That is about 350 planes per day between 06:00 and 11:00hrs most of the year (with prevailing westerly wind). That’s an average of one plane every two and a half minutes. Some direct eastern flights across Tonbridge, especially at night.
(Chiddingstone, Hever, Leigh and Penshurst Parish Councils)
The High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group was formed in 2013 due to the common need to campaign against excessive aircraft noise, low flying aircraft, night flights and the threat of a second runway at Gatwick Airport. The group consists of local residents and representatives from Chiddingstone, Hever, Leigh and Penshurst Parish Councils, and these Parish Councils have passed resolutions to allow the High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group to respond to consultations and to campaign on behalf of their communities. Our Kent County Councillor for Sevenoaks South and also a representative from the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign both attend our meetings, and their support and knowledge has been invaluable.
As a whole, the High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group represents a population of 5,902, and an electorate of 4,650 across the four parishes.
Gatwick & Aircraft Noise
– High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group.
Chiddingstone Parish Council
Chiddingstone Parish Council is campaigning against aircraft noise, low-flying aircraft, night flights and the threat of a second runway at Gatwick Airport.
The Parish Council has been instrumental in creating a new group called High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group.
As an individual Parish Council, we represent our parishioners and can therefore respond to various consultations on their behalf. Whilst this does have an impact, by joining forces with other like-minded parishes and residents, it is hoped that we will have a far greater influence. The Parish Council and High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group have both submitted responses to various consultations (from the Airports Commission), and will continue to campaign and respond to future consultations on behalf of our community.
Leigh Parish Council has joined a group of other local parishes called High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group.
As an individual Parish Council, we represent our community and therefore have the opportunity to respond to consultations on your behalf. Whilst this does have an impact, by joining forces with other local parishes under a group initiative, we will have a far greater impact.
The High Weald Parish Councils Aviation Action Group (HWPCAAG) was formed in 2013 and has held regular meetings to discuss current consultations and how the group can campaign against aircraft noise, low-flying aircraft, night flights and the threat of a second runway at Gatwick Airport.
The Parish Council submitted its own response to the London Airspace Consultation, HWPCAAG submitted a combined response, and individual residents were encouraged to submit their own responses too.
YouTube video of the planes over houses at Manchester Airport – showing just how bad the plane noise is. And the links to cardiovascular impacts of loud aircraft noise.
Be warned residents of Sussex and Kent – this is what could happen to more and more of us if Gatwick continues to expand.
More planes, new routes, more routes… Gatwick is a global company with no ethical remit. It makes perfect business sense to grow and make more profits for shareholders.
But it is at our expense. We’d have to go on holiday to escape from it all!
We need meaningful change to the way airports operate – we need this industry to be more tightly regulated and independently monitored than it is at the moment.
There are real changes Gatwick could make tomorrow that could bring about less noise and air pollution. Instead, they continue to merely exploit the skies above our heads.
The glossy documents generated by the Gatwick PR machine, such as the recent one boasting about better transport links between Gatwick and London, give every impression that what Gatwick is doing is ‘progress’. An amazing thing, apparently.
The bottom line is that Gatwick is selling us more planes. And more planes.