People overflown by Heathrow dreading the resumption of increased plane noise, when flight restrictions are eased
While for many people lockdown has been a really difficult and isolating time, for those living under the Heathrow flight paths it’s given them the respite from noise that they have really wanted and needed. One resident in Windsor said: “The worst thing for me is the night flights. I worked in a pressurised full time job and we had done as much insulation as possible. But when you wake up at 4.30am – when the first arrivals start – you start thinking about work and you can’t get back to sleep and it almost drove me round the bend. For your mental health the night flights are an absolute nightmare.” The problem can be worse in summer, in warm weather, when people want the window open – the noise is then far worse, and people get woken up. One resident said, about the prospect of high numbers of planes returning, when restrictions on air travel are lifted: “I am absolutely dreading it, in fact I am thinking about moving away which is a shame because I love this area and I love where I live.” The campaign group No 3rd Runway Coalition ran a noise survey during lockdown which received 3,419 responses. It showed a high number noticed a beneficial impact on their sleep, from fewer planes.
Life under the Heathrow flight path: the neighbours ‘dreading’ the end of lockdown
Lockdown has provided an unusual break for some families living in Berkshire
By Emily Craigie (Get Reading)
12 MAR 2021
While for many people lockdown has been a really difficult and isolating time, for those living under the Heathrow flight path it’s given them the respite they’ve been desperate for.
For some living in Windsor, in normal times, their sleep would be heavily disrupted from 4.30am when planes from the country’s busiest airport started flying over.
Linda Vittozzi, who lives in Windsor and is now retired, has been in the area for 40 years and said it has got increasingly worse to the point where it is now [outside lockdown] “intolerable”.
She compared sitting in her garden to being sat next to a loud motorbike.
She said: “The worst thing for me is the night flights. I worked in a pressurised full time job and we had done as much insulation as possible.
“But when you wake up at 4.30am you start thinking about work and you can’t get back to sleep and it almost drove me round the bend. For your mental health the night flights are an absolute nightmare.”
For some, it is even worse in the summer when they want to open their bedroom windows but feel like they can’t because of the noise.
Lesley Sutton, 67, a retired teacher who lives in Windsor, said: “It’s very intrusive on our lives particularly in the summer months when we want to keep our windows open.
“And that caused enormous problems in summer 2019 when it was really really hot and without the windows open we were stifling.
“The planes come really early in the morning, it’s about half past four and then they fly until late at night and I really think that’s unacceptable and it just wears away at you.
“If you’re hot and you’re tired and you’ve done a day at work you really just want to get a good night sleep and that is not happening.”
It also means that in the summer months, you can’t sit outside without the noise being disruptive.
However, last year during lockdown, neighbours noticed a huge difference when they were in their gardens.
Lesley said: “It was silent and it was so beautiful in our garden last summer. You could hear birds and we didn’t realise there were so many around and that was really lovely.
“Just the peace and quiet and the serenity affects your state of mind – it feels like you’re on holiday.”
Sue Monaghan, is also enjoying the bird song during lockdown in her Windsor garden, she said: “It was almost silent here [during the night], it was amazing, we could hear the birds.
“It was so much more pleasant being woken up at 4 or 5 o’clock by the dawn chorus than the red eye coming in from New York.”
Sue also said she had noticed the air feels much cleaner – though that could also partly be due to less road pollution.
When asked how she feels about normal service at Heathrow resuming she said: “I am absolutely dreading it, in fact I am thinking about moving away which is a shame because I love this area and I love where I live.”
The campaign group No 3rd Runway Coalition ran a survey during lockdown which received 3,419 responses.
The majority of respondents said they had noticed health impacts because of fewer planes and 62.67% said there had been an impact on their sleep pattern.
Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition Paul McGuinness said: “During the first lockdown, a survey found 80% of residents saying that reduced Heathrow activity had been significantly beneficial, whether it be in the form of improved sleep, cleaner air, or greater enjoyment of outdoor spaces.
“Not only were residents opposed to Heathrow’s expansion, but they were opposed to its activities resuming to pre-pandemic levels.”
In response to the issues raised by people living nearby, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “We work in close partnership with our airlines, regulators, air traffic controllers and local communities to continually find new ways to minimise the impacts of our operations.
“Reducing noise remains a key priority for Heathrow and we are currently consulting on Slightly Steeper Approaches, which will see the permanent introduction of a slightly steeper approach angle of 3.2 degrees [it is usually 3 degrees] for some arriving aircraft.
“With regards to air pollution, we have been clear that Expansion should only go ahead if this falls within strict environmental limits. The local air quality around the airport is dominated by road traffic pollution and other background sources such as heating and industrial processes, however Heathrow is committed to ensuring we play our part by working to reduce airport-related traffic emissions.”
The airport added that those living nearby are welcome to contact the Heathrow’s Community Relations team with any concerns they may have, directly on 0800 344 844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public enjoying peace and tranquillity from absence of Heathrow flights
Almost 3,500 people took part in a survey organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition on aircraft noise during Covid lockdown. The aim was to see what impact the absence (or near absence) of aircraft noise had on people who are usually overflown. 80% of respondents found the experience of fewer flights to be positive. 49% noticed the reduction in flights all day long. 52% said there had been an impact on their sleep. The most common themes in responses were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality. Health impacts mentioned included improved sleeping patterns, greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces. The survey also included responses from around airports other than Heathrow (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford). Paul McGuinness, Chair of the Coalition, said: “With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow.” The absence of flights has been a unique opportunity to appreciate how great the impact of the noise normally is, with Heathrow working at full capacity.