Friday, 13 November 2015

Flights Overhead From Heathrow

This week, I met up with Nigel Milton (Heathrow's Director for External Affairs) and Cheryl Monk (Heathrow's Head of Community Relations), along with Molesey Councillor Steve Bax (who sits on Heathrow's local Noise Community Forum). The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue since last year's highly disruptive flight trial paths over Molesey (and Walton). I live under the path, so I hear the noise first hand. Two interesting points emerged from the meeting in that regard. First, no further flight path trials are (at least currently) planned across the same areas. Second, Heathrow have sought independent verification of the noise levels, using a Dutch firm, given the discrepancy between what some residents are reporting and Heathrow's data. My strong sense is that noise levels have reduced significantly, but there have also been a lot of 'Easterly Operations' lately, which increase noise levels, dictated by weather conditions.

Of course, there is a much bigger issue looming, namely the decision on expansion of airport capacity, following the Davies Report. I have made clear that I am scrutinising the Davies Report carefully, including testing the economic and environmental assumptions - both pros and cons - with business groups, local authorities, and other groups. 

As part of that process, I particularly want to test the assumption that a 3rd runway could be developed in a way that reduces noise levels (affecting Elmbridge and more generally). I want to check the facts and evidence very carefully before coming to a firm view, and I will feed my views, our community's interests and concerns into government, before a decision is taken.


Matthew said...

Certainly it's worth considering the facts but my goodness this government would be betraying its voters if it did allow for a 3rd runway. 'No ifs, no buts' - that is a strong statement that DC made.

How about utilising as much extra capacity in other airports as possible? A second runway at Gatwick, followed by extending Luton Runway so that it can take more cargo flights that currently take up space at Heathrow, and getting better use out of Stansted. Linking Gatwick and Heathrow via a rail link utilising parts of the existing line. That would surely be a better option than creating a noisy, polluting behemoth at Heathrow which will involves closing the M25 and putting millions more cars into the highways around West London.

Tim said...

The routes concerned are routes 4 and 5

Whist we talk about flight paths it was "noise corridors" which were approved originally by the Department of Transport for aircraft taking off and landing at Heathrow

It appears quite clear that planes are not sticking to the middle of the agreed noise corridors

It also appears quite clear that airlines are using satellite navigation to route their aircraft away from the centre of the noise corridors to whatever route suits them and this is why so many planes are in the "wrong place" as far as residents are concerned.

When you decide to live in a property noise levels from aircraft is a factor and properties directly under the flightpath (i.e. at the centre of "noise corridors") benefit from lower purchase prices or lower rental values and you can't get compensation from Heathrow due to the "move to nuisance" rules which means that you cannot claim compensation for something that you should have known about before you moved........

In my opinion, what we have is the actual nuisance moving away from the prescribed "noise corridors" to, in some instances, directly over our properties and that is blatantly unfair..........

I suspect that if we don't manage to do anything about this then over time we will lose our rights.....

If Heathrow can't be trusted with management of existing noise corridors (which includes ensuring plane altitudes) then how can we trust them with an additional runway - which I support form a UK economic perspective but not if our trust is abused because aircraft keep getting off track

GeoffT said...

Many of my neighbours commented on the increased aircraft noise over the summer. To understand the situation better I installed the Flightradar24 aircraft tracking app on my phone.
For southerly destinations such as Europe, Middle East & Africa, easterly take-offs are being spread across a wide area south of the airport ranging from Twickenham to Esher. I live in East Molesey and in September the aircraft were coming over at about 2,000 ft every few minutes. Some days they started just after 6 am and were still going at 11pm.
The ‘Westerly Preference’ for take-offs from Heathrow seems to have been quietly dropped because planes were taking off to the East even in the very light summer winds. This would appear to be one of the main factors for the very large number of easterly take-offs in September 2015. In the past, aircraft would take off to the West even in light easterly winds of up to 5 Knots. See:
The statement from Heathrow that there are ‘no further flight trials’ does not seem to mean the same as ‘we are not going to change the flight paths’. The strategy operated over the summer seems to have been to spread the flights out over a much larger area and switch part of the westerly load to the East. The warped thinking appears to be that if you disturb a lot more people, less frequently on average, then it constitutes a ‘reduction’ in noise.
I moved from Richmond to East Molesey 27 years ago to get away from aircraft noise. I specifically chose an area not under any flight path, and before moving I even took the precaution of obtaining a copy of the Heathrow flight-path map to check that there wouldn’t be a noise problem. These careful precautions all came to nought in 2015 when without consultation and without planning permission the flight paths were changed.

Fiona Fraser said...

Dear Dominic, further to my recent letter to you, and communications with Steve Bax, as a Molesey resident for 10 years, and part of the new action group Rage, I strongly disagree with your comments about noise levels not changing. Over the past 2 months the plane noise has been unbearable, my windows and doors shake and rattle and I'm now regularly woken up by plane noise at 6am, it was 4.30am the other morning, and go to bed to plane noise. It has completely changed and I do feel we need more support from you on this, as it seems you are supporting Heathrow and not your constituants. Please help us get back our quality of life and stop plane noise and pollution

Penny Owen said...

Dear Dominic,
We have written and spoken to you before about the negative impact on our quality of life from the blight of noise pollution from Heathrow.
We have lived in Molesey for over 25 years and can confirm Geoff and Fiona's statements and those of RAGE that the planes now fly over us more frequently, especially in the last couple of years, and noise levels are intolerable. Some days the noise is so unbearable and unrelenting, it forces us to go out to seek peace and quiet. Heathrow's claim that a third runway could reduce aircraft noise needs to be taken with a large dose of scepticism, as previous statistics supplied by them have proved to be optimistic or skewed, depending on your point of view!
Air pollution levels already breach safety guidelines and we are concerned about the effect on our health.
Traffic congestion around Heathrow, especially on the M25, is already one of the most frequent hotspots on the traffic news. Further pressure on roads would create havoc for those of us who live in this area.
Please listen to the concerns of your constituents when making your decision, as other local MPs and councils have done. Whatever your view on airport expansion, Heathrow is not the answer.

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