Complaints rise as flight trail continues

Published: Friday 23rd December 11

Central London is suffering a major increase in aircraft noise as Heathrow operator BAA conducts a four month flight pattern trial.

Wandsworth Council has received more than 100 reports of increased aircraft noise from local residents since the 'operational freedom' tests began on November 2.

During the trial period BAA is permitted to land more planes over central London during established half-day 'respite periods' when residents would usually get an eight hour break from aircraft noise.

Official trial data now shows that a total of 640 flights have landed during these quiet times as air traffic controllers make use of the relaxed regulations.

Between November 23 and December 14, an average of 23 flights per day landed in breach of the normal rules.

The aim of the trial is to explore ways of making the airport run more efficiently and to cut down on flight delays. It is being monitored by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia said: "BAA said they would only land planes during quiet periods if arriving flights faced delays of ten minutes or more. In practice that has meant planes landing out of sequence almost every day. On the worst occasion a total of 45 flights came in over central London when our residents would normally expect a complete break.  

"We are closely monitoring all the data produced by BAA so that we can get a clear picture of how these flexibilities are being used and whether their are better ways of managing the demand for runway space at the airport."

Mark Curtis, who lives in Putney, has reported a rise in flight noise since the trial began.

He said: "The increase in aircraft noise has been extremely noticeable and if continued would seriously impact the quality of life for south west London residents."

Charlotte Triggs from Battersea has also reported a marked increase. She said: "I have lived in Battersea for 12 years and have never experienced such low-flying, constant, noisy aeroplanes.  We get no respite at all now the BAA is running this trial."

To report increased aircraft noise visit

Alternatively you can email your report to or call the council's aircraft noise hotline on 020 8871 5377

Please ensure your message includes the time of the nuisance flight and your location when the flight passed overhead.

Notes to editors

Under the established 'runway alternation' system Heathrow is only permitted to use one runway for take offs and one for landing. Their use is switched everyday at 3pm to give residents under the flightpath a regular break from overhead flights.

During the trial BAA is allowed to use both runways at the same time for arrivals during busy periods when flights are delayed. This means more flights are coming in to land during the current half-day respite periods.

The testing periods were approved by the South East Airports Taskforce Group which was set up by the Government to explore ways of making airports 'better, not bigger'.

There will be no increase in the overall number of movements at the airport.

The trials will be undertaken by BAA under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Copies of the Department for Transport's report on the operational freedoms trial are available at www​.dft​.gov​.uk

Wandsworth is a founding member of the 2M Group of councils which overturned the previous Government's plans for a third runway at Heathrow in the High Court

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Recent comments

I live directly under flight path, recently bought a house in sw11 without realising what a nuisance the aircraft noise will be. My husband and I are in full time stressfull demanding jobs and would have loved to come back to our new home to destress and enjoy, We are also looking at starting a family and none of this is helping. Every now and then we try to get out of the house. Every night i sit in front of teh telle until 11:30 as the tele noise is better than teh aircraft noise. every night i hope not to be woken up at early morning hrs as early as 4:30 by the dreadful aircraft noise. I want to live, i want to have a family, i want to make a home, i want to spend quite evenings with my husband and not woth my tele; please help!
Priyanka Chawla

10 January 2012

Balham does not have any problem with noise and I wonder if these 100 complaints come from the 'usual supects' of complainers I agree 100% with Celia Blair - only negative responses are being effectively asked for. We need Heathrow for jobs and transport links around the world, it does not badly affect Wandsworth residents so maybe its time the council focused on something important (such as the long over due rail link to Heathrow from Clapham junction). I wonder is the Secretary of State for Transport living in Putney has anything to do with this 'agenda'

29 December 2011

It is clear here that WBC does not ask people to report any DECREASED noise, any improvement. So, is it surprising that there are only negative responses? WBC does not say if there have been any positive responses. This is skewed research and of course those under the flightpath will experience noise and complain.
Celia Blair

23 December 2011

The November monthly report on the trials at says that the main recommendation [of the Taskforce] was to explore the scope for a set of operational freedoms to be established at Heathrow . Actually they are only one pillar of the report - the other two were to get all the different companies at the airport pulling together to give the passenger a better experience and to sort out the scheduling and capacity management at the airport so that the bunching that causes the excessive delays is eliminated. We don't hear much happening about the other two - perhaps we are deafened by the planes or maybe they have been forgotten.
Tim Henderson

23 December 2011