Experts conclude that Heliport noise could be a danger to health

Published: Tuesday 7th August 18

Residents living in three riverside boroughs near the London Heliport in Battersea are being subjected to noise levels that could pose a risk to their health.

That’s the conclusion of a ground-breaking study, the first of its kind in the UK that monitored noise levels near the heliport over a five month period last year.

The study, carried out by acoustics experts from London South Bank University, found that residents living close to the Thames in the boroughs of Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea are routinely subjected to noise disturbance that exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended limits.

The report’s findings have now sparked calls from all three boroughs for the heliport to do much more to limit the impact its operations have on neighbouring communities.

And it’s prompted the leaders of the three boroughs to urge the Mayor, transport ministers and Civil Aviation Authority to work more closely with them in co-ordinated efforts to resolve the noise problems caused by the heliport.

The original consent was awarded by the now defunct Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1970s and means there is nothing that can be done to curtail the site’s operations under planning laws.

The heliport’s planning permission allows it to operate within limits set on opening hours, a daily cap of 80 movements a day, and an annual limit of 12,000 movements. This allowance does not include emergency or military operations.

Part of the problem is the fact that the heliport has a historic planning permission allowing it to continue operating, even though it is in a densely populated part of London.

The authors of the report concluded that noise generated along the heliport landing and take-off flight path are at levels that could cause medium risk of adverse health effects on affected residents due to long term noise exposure.

The report lists a number of recommendations going forward, including attention being given to new planning applications and the inclusion of any balconies in future residential developments. This would ensure that noise impacts from the heliport are assessed in line with national planning guidelines.

It also points out that Defra had previously advised the Battersea Heliport Consultative Group that there was no statutory requirement for London Heliport to prepare a Noise Action Plan (NAP) because of insufficient data on helicopter noise performance. NAPs are designed to manage noise issues and effects arising from aircraft departing from and arriving from specific airports.

The report concludes that the results of this study may now provide the opportunity to develop a UK model for a heliport NAP.

Leader of Wandsworth Council, Councillor Ravi Govindia, said: “This study is the first evidence of the impact the heliport is having on residents living along the Thames.

“The conclusions, that the noise levels being generated are likely to impact on people’s health, are very concerning. This affects residents living across three boroughs and the study shows that, despite the introduction of a new, less noisy, helicopter fleet at Battersea, there are now hundreds, if not thousands of residents, regularly being impacted by noise at or above the operating threshold.

“All three councils – Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea – now need to see some action in response to these worrying statistics.

“In the first instance we would call upon the Mayor, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Government to work together with us to find a more sustainable solution.

“Under the Mayor’s current Draft London Plan it is proposed that any new heliports are refused. We do not believe that is fair as it means that our residents are having to bear the brunt of having the flight path from London’s only heliport going over their heads.

“It is obvious that relocation of the Battersea Heliport is the only right solution but the Mayor’s draft London Plan has failed to grasp the nettle but there is still time for him to change his mind.

“He added: “In the meantime we call on the Heliport operator to do more to curb its impact and also work with us to improve this situation.”

Councillor David Lindsay, Lead Member for Healthy City Living in Kensington and Chelsea, said: “A number residents have been in touch with me and my colleagues to complain about the noise from Battersea Heliport and I am absolutely sure councillors in Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham have had to deal with the same issues.

“This report highlights some vital issues concerning the disturbance from the heliport and it’s time for the Mayor of London, Civil Aviation Authority and Government to take our concerns seriously and work to significantly reduce the blight on the lives of our residents.

“We will do all we can to support our residents in their demand to be able to enjoy their lives without continuous interruption.”

Councillor Wesley Harcourt, Cabinet Member for Environment at Hammersmith & Fulham Council said: “The results of this study confirm what residents across the borough have long been telling us – this heliport is a blight on their lives.

 “It leaves us little choice but to lobby for stricter regulations on noise levels and volume of flights, so that we can better protect our residents’ standards of living.”

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Recent comments

The 3 Councils should take note of this summary of recent study by Journal of the American College of Cardiology: "Noise may disrupt the body on the cellular level in a way that increases the risk of common heart disease risk factors, according to a review topic published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that examined the underlying mechanisms that may lead to noise-induced heart disease. THE REVIEW IS IN RESPONSE TO GROWING EVIDENCE CONNECTING ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE, INCLUDING FROM ROAD TRAFFIC AND AIRCRAFT, TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEART DISEASE, SUCH AS CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE, ARTERIAL HYPERTENSION, STROKE AND HEART FAILURE."
Melville Guest

17 August 2018

The hotel above the heliport (Crown Plaza) has triple-glazed windows and inside the noise is minimal. The hotel and apartments the other side has enclosed balconies - effectively triple-glazing again. The designers had the foresight to deal with the issue. None of the other developments beyond that have bothered to do the same. They chose not to to save on costs of course. If you build an apartment block with flats for sale costing millions in some cases, next to a runway, you have a choice as to whether you go the extra mile to mitigate against known, pre-existing noise. If you choose not to do anything, then tough. Buy a flat with secondary or triple-glazing. Don't complain about something that is already tightly controlled.
Fredrik Schumacher

16 August 2018

The helicopter noise is infrequent and has been quite acceptable to long-term residents. How can new residents of those expensive, double-glazed river apartment flats really complain about the noise when they should have known about the heliport that has existed much longer than their exclusive flats? No sympathy here I'm afraid. It's the aeroplane noise that is really damaging to MANY more residents and for much more time in the day and night. We and thousands of others in the river boroughs get woken up by the first aircraft at 4.30am. Address this issue first please Wandsworth Council. The helicopters are a delight in comparison.
Elizabeth Salmon

15 August 2018

At last some appreciation of the level of disdurbance the Heliport makes to all the residences around and alongside its location. The restriction of its use to purely commerial traffic and the exclusion of sightseeing and pleasure trips woul be a welcomed first step to limiting the disturbance levels.
Robbie Ashmore

12 August 2018

There will be some new residents who genuinely did not know about the helicopter noise when they bought or rented their flats. Surveyors will have failed to mention the noise or they will have rashly decided to live there without checking out the area. It happened to me, moving from Scotland to Wandsworth. The surveyor made no mention of the Heathrow flightpaths over my new house of which I was totally unaware. I was surprised by the aircraft noise after moving in and miffed that the surveyor hadn’t mentioned it. Should I have sued him?

12 August 2018

The point needs to be made, again, that the heliport has been in existence for decades, and way before the adjacent flats were built. People buying or renting flats in the immediate area did so in the full knowledge of the heliport and its activities. So they can not complain. If they did not like the noise they should not have bought their property in the first place. No one forced them too!

11 August 2018

The helicopters are loud. but having been a local resident for many years, I remember when the heliport existed in what was then a largely industrial area and there was therefore not a noise problem. It's a pity that the relevant local councils and developers didn't take the heliport into account when they approved planning permission for all the new houses and flats. Buyers would have been absolutely aware of the noise condition when they bought. Perhaps the Councils in question should offer triple glazing to residents rather than expecting the heliport to sort a problem that is not of their making.
Sandra Goodwin

10 August 2018

I hope the council don't start spending taxpayers' money on legal challenges over this. Could they spend the money on picking up more litter instead?
Alison Price

10 August 2018

Anyway, if the noise levels are so dangerous, stop approving applications to build housing nearby!
Alison Price

10 August 2018

Nicer problems to have? I haven't noticed any impact on house prices. People buy a house/flat within earshot of an established heliport and then whinge about the noise? Solution: move house. Relocating the heliport would be very unfair to those who have set up home in a quiet area with no heliport nearby. Heliport-NIMBYs need to learn to live with the consequences of their housing choices.
Alison Price

10 August 2018

I moved to the direct surround area of the helipad nine years ago. I knew it would be noisy but a little price pay for the view of the river. Surprisingly the helicopters are not the problem. I love them and so do my visitors. It’s ill mannered new neighbours who party all night any day of the week. Balcony etiquette don’t talk at normal volume at night as every sound is amplified.

10 August 2018

Aircraft are much quieter now that they have increased the aproach hight and newer fanjets engines I remember when it was imposible to have a conversation in the garden, Now even directly underneath a A380 it is possible toconverse What is not acceptable and is infinately noiser are motocycles and scooter where theu have modified the exhausts Helecopters are less noisy than Harley Davidsons
ian godfrey

10 August 2018

This is a ridiculous argument. The heliport opened in 1959, the current regulations that govern flights in and out were set by the GLC in the 1970s. The vast majority of the flats in the area have gone up since the late 1990s. as a result, pretty well everyone affected must have known that the heliport was there before them. If they didn't know about it, more fool them. Buying a flat close to a heliport comes with noise issues. This is all stuff and nonsense, move on, you cannot save people from their own stupidity. No sympathy.
John Gallagher

10 August 2018

Best solution wd be to relocate the heliport. Otherwise, could a regulation be introduced whereby a helicopter wd be required to hover only over the river and not over the houses. It is the hovering which causes the worst noise pollution.
Judith Keppel

10 August 2018

People complained about the noise right from the start of the heliport but that was when most of the people local to the heliport were council tenants who did not matter. This is a class issue and has more to do with gentrification and Prince George going to a school which is in an area which suffers from helicopter noise.

10 August 2018

To help "John" understand the issue a little more. More pertinent questions would be - how much has the helicopter traffic increased since the heliport was built in 1959? - Since neighbouring developments were built? - Since tourist helicopters started flying from the heliport in 2013? - Since the latest owners took over in 2012?
Sarah King

8 August 2018

It's great that finally something is being done about this menace, but sadly no mention of the noxious fumes affecting local residents and passerbyers of the heliport?
Sarah King

8 August 2018

Was the heliport not there prior to the flats so people knew this when they bought into the location? Seems as though Govindia is guilty of promoting the nimbyism that our Council are constantly accusing other people of. Maybe the clout of wealthy residential developers in the area is bearing fruit in the corridors of power.

8 August 2018