Below are links to stories about noise in relation to airports and aviation.
Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January
After over 3 years of fierce resistance by the local community, the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport will be decided by a Public Inquiry which opens on Tuesday 12th January. The outcome will determine whether Uttlesford, East Herts, and other surrounding districts will continue to consist of largely rural communities or will, in time, become further blighted and urbanised in the same way as large areas around Gatwick and Heathrow airports. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) considers it entirely irrational, and potentially dangerous, for the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to insist that the Public Inquiry must start at the height of the Covid pandemic. Stansted already has permission for 35 million passengers and its passenger throughput peaked at 28 million in 2018, with passenger numbers in decline since mid-2019, long before the pandemic. In 2020, Stansted handled just 7 million passengers and has forecast that it will take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. Plainly, there is no urgency to increase the current planning cap.
Another study, this one from Switzerland, shows exposure to aircraft noise during sleep can trigger heart attacks
A study carried out by Swiss researchers looked at 24,886 deaths from cardiovascular disease from 2000–2015, in people living near Zurich Airport. They looked at the deaths in relation to night-time aircraft noise exposure. They found that those exposed to 40–50 decibels noise had a significantly higher risk (about 33%) of heart attacks in the few hours after the noise. The risk was higher for noise above 55 decibels - about 44%. For those susceptible, the effect of planes passing overhead can lead to death within 2 hours of the noise. The Zurich study found aircraft noise contributed to about 800 out of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2015 in the vicinity of Zurich airport, which was 3%. The study used a so-called 'case-crossover' model to determine whether the subject's noise exposure around their time of death was unusually high in comparison to sounds levels they experienced at other, randomly-selected times. Previous research for the European Environment Agency estimated that noise exposure road, rail, aircraft, industry) causes 12,000 premature deaths and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease per year across Europe.
Councils that legally challenged Heathrow expansion say Supreme Court Heathrow ruling ‘changes nothing’
The group of Councils deeply opposed to Heathrow expansion said the Supreme Court ruling, that the ANPS is legal, changes nothing and called on the airport to abandon once and for all its bid for a 3rd runway. Residents in all these boroughs are badly affected by noise of Heathrow planes. Wandsworth Council urged Heathrow to concentrate on working with the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions and an end to night flights. The Leader of Wandsworth Council, Cllr Ravi Govindia, said: “The ruling does not give Heathrow a green light for a third runway. It says nothing about how expansion could be delivered in the face of legally binding emissions targets. The world has changed since Chris Grayling’s decision in 2018. Heathrow will never be able to build a third runway. It’s time for the airport to admit defeat and put all its energy into working with the aviation industry to achieve the net zero goal. The Government must now as a matter of urgency produce a new aviation strategy for the UK which properly takes account of its legal commitment on emissions reductions. And Heathrow could put an end to the early morning arrivals, the noise of which causes so much upset, disturbing the sleep of thousands, putting their health at risk.
DfT publishes night flights consultation – no concessions to airport groups for another 4 years…?
Historically, the DfT has set the night flight regime - for the "designated" airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted - for periods of 5 years. The last regime was in 2017, for the period from October 2017 to October 2022. The DfT says: "The aim of the regime was to maintain the status quo and ensure that communities do not experience any overall increase in the noise created by night flights." It has allowed a high level of night flights, with no reductions on earlier numbers, despite significant community opposition. Seventeen airport groups wrote to the Aviation Minister on 10th November, asking that night flights should be limited in future, with a proper night period in which no flights are permitted (other than genuine emergencies). The aim was to make their point before the DfT consultation (by which time the DfT has decided what it intends to do ...). The government has now published its new night flights consultation, for the period 2022 to 2024. The DfT intends there to be no change to the current regime (no concessions to suffering from being overflown at night) other than phasing out the noisiest planes, which airlines are getting rid of anyway, due to Covid. DfT says: "... we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally."
Local campaign groups oppose Luton Airport expansion plans and flight path changes, due to noise
Two campaign groups dedicated to reducing noise from Luton Airport have hit out at its latest plans for expansion. LADACAN (Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) and STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies) have rejected the airport's plans as "both unjustified and unmerited" in a series of responses to the consultation (ends 5th Feb 2021). LADACAN said: “Airport growth going forward has to be more responsibly managed than in the past. The industry is innately carbon-inefficient at present due to outdated airspace design, which forces planes into holding stacks and causes Luton departures to be held low sometimes for 15-20 miles. This is very wasteful of fuel and causes far more widespread noise than necessary." They also say the latest aircraft introduced into the Luton fleet, the Airbus A321-neo was meant to be a bit less noisy than the A321, but it is not. STAQS said claims of a 2dB noise benefit from the A321-neo in the Airport’s noise reduction strategy are ‘wishful thinking’. "Luton Council needs to send Luton Airport a really clear signal that noise conditions are there for a purpose, which might focus some effort on growth balanced by mitigation, as the government requires.”
Groups write to Aviation Minister, asking for new limits on night flights – including need for an 8-hour night period
A long list of organisations and groups have signed a letter to the Transport Minister, Robert Courts, asking for action to limit night flights. It is understood that the government intends to publish a consultation and call for evidence on night flights later this year. The groups hope the DfT will take their views into consideration, and not (as in 2017) decide policy on night flights BEFORE consulting. They say that all night flights, other than for emergency and humanitarian purposes, should be banned at all UK airports. The period defined as night should be an eight hour period. If any night flights are to be permitted, their number and impacts should be regulated far more robustly than they are now, at all airports. In the past, the government has argued that the economic benefits of allowing planes to fly at night outweigh the health and quality of life costs of those negatively affected. This can no longer withstand scrutiny, as many flights are just to perpetuate a low-cost carrier business model that generates unsustainable levels of leisure flights. The demand for business flights is increasingly replaced by internet communications, and most air freight does not need to arrive the next day.
Southampton Airport extended runway plans to be debated on 17th December
Plans to expand Southampton Airport runway will be considered by Eastleigh Council on 17th December. The airport wants to extend its runway by 164m (538ft) and extend the existing long stay car park to provide an additional 600 spaces. The proposals will be scrutinised at a special meeting of the Eastleigh Local Area Committee. The airport has recently submitted more details of the plans to the council. These include the possibility for the authority to propose a maximum noise cap on the airport. Local opposition group Airport Expansion Opposition (AXO) continue to campaign against the plans. As well as the carbon emissions, they fear that new government policy could mean that there would be no noise cap in the future. The airport claims the longer runway is necessary, to keep airport staff employed, as the longer runway would allow larger Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 planes, for holiday destinations in southern Europe. The airport hopes the extended runway could be ready by 2022. The public consultation will close on November 15. Nearby Winchester Council has said it is still likely to object to the plans, and the recently updated information do not overcome their concerns about the noise impact.
New arrival routes for Luton Airport could see noisy flights over other parts of Beds, Bucks and Cambs
A consultation by Luton airport and NATS was launched on 19th October, to change the arrival routes for the airport, which could see aircraft flying closer to some towns in Beds, Bucks and Cambs. Luton Airport currently shares arrival routes and 2 holds with Stansted, a situation which has been described as "unsustainable" due to both airports' size (pre-Covid). A delay at one airport can impact the other. It is now proposed that a new aircraft hold for Luton is formed above the St Neots and Huntingdon area, along with separate routes "further out and higher up". This is to ensure its operations don’t clash with Stansted. There are two options. Local campaign LADACAN says: "As far as people on the ground are concerned, this consultation and its hundreds of pages of technical documentation boils down to a simple question: are concentrated tracks or randomly dispersed flights the best solution when aircraft are passing closely spaced communities at low altitudes?" Luton's aim, of course, is to fit in more flights so airport traffic can grow ... The consultation runs until February 5th 2021. There are maps at https://consultations.airspacechange.co.uk/london-luton-airport/ad6_luton_arrivals/ which show the location of two new proposed PBN arrival routes, and more detail from LADACAN at https://ladacan.org/consultation-on-arrivals-flight-paths/
Tory councillors want an end to Southend night flights, largely bringing in Amazon packages
Conservative councillors have criticised Southend Airport’s night flights, pledging to “explore every avenue possible” to have them removed. They have made it clear they back “further controlled expansion” but want night flights removed. Some residents say they are being forced to take sleeping tablets because of the sleep disruption caused by night flights. The Conservative councillors said: “We will continue to explore every avenue possible to have the night flight quota removed from the Airport’s Section 106 Licence Agreement.” Other councillors worry there will be a loss of jobs, and they dare not risk losing them, with so many jobs being lost due to Covid. There are residential roads very close to the airport boundary, with houses must too near the runway. The airport is permitted on average 4 flights per night, but sometimes has fewer. The airport has cargo flights, bringing in Amazon goods. There are generally 3 per night between 1am and 5.30am, though there had been an earlier agreement not to have flights between midnight and 6am. This agreement has been abandoned.
Local campaign GACC sets out the actions needed for Gatwick to “build back better”
The local campaign group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has set out the steps that need to be taken to ensure Gatwick does "build back better." Gatwick’s operations and the flights it facilitates need to become compatible with climate change imperatives and the airport must reduce its noise and other environmental impacts, in contrast to what has been happening at the airport during the past decade. At a meeting of the airport’s statutory consultative committee, GATCOM, on 15th October, GACC laid out a series of national and local measures needed to build Gatwick back better. GACC’s full statement The measures include setting legally enforceable zero carbon targets for aviation; ensuring aviation pays a higher, fairer, contribution towards public finances through more equitable taxes, focused particularly on frequent flyers; phasing out of public subsidies that distort the industry’s economics; putting in place effective noise regulation; and ending night flights, that negatively impact people's health and welfare. There also needs to be diversification around Gatwick, so the area is no longer so economically dependent on one sector. Gatwick should not be allowed to even to return to its 2019 size, let alone expand.