Help stop major aircraft noise increase over Wandsworth

Published: 15 January 2015

Council leader Ravi Govindia is urging residents to help stop a series of new Heathrow flight paths being created over Wandsworth and other parts of London.

The UK Airports Commission’s public consultation on plans to vastly expand the airport and increase the number of planes flying over the borough will close on February 3.  

The proposals include creating new Heathrow arrival routes which would cut across Wandsworth and expose more local communities to the stress and misery of aircraft noise.

There are two different plans for expanding Heathrow included in the consultation – both of which involve increasing the number of annual flights by 200,000.

The consultation also asks for views on an alternative plan to expand Gatwick. This rival proposal would not create any extra flights over densely populated areas like Wandsworth but would help to create new jobs and homes in Battersea which has a 25 minute rail link to the airport from Clapham Junction.

After next year’s general election the Airports Commission will recommend expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick to the new Government.

Cllr Govindia said: “Responding to this consultation could save our local community from these very serious threats. The quiet enjoyment of our homes, parks and gardens is hanging in the balance and I appeal to everyone who lives Wandsworth to take the time to register their views before it is too late.

“If Heathrow is selected there will be a vast increase in the number of planes flying low over Wandsworth every day. There are proposals to create new flightpaths which would cut across parts of our borough which have never been affected before. Places like Wandsworth Common, Northcote Road, Tooting Common and Southfields could be directly below the path of incoming jets.

“Those already under the flightpaths in Battersea, Wandsworth Town, Putney and Roehampton also face an increase in overhead planes and today’s limited noise respite protection could be diminished.

“If Gatwick is selected our borough will not face any additional aircraft noise but it will see new investment in the rail network and a major boost for Clapham Junction’s economy. There is cross-party support for Gatwick expansion on the council and I hope local residents back this project in their responses.”

Wandsworth Council is a member of the cross-party 2M Group of councils which work together to oppose changes at Heathrow which would have negative impacts on their communities. The 2M Group is preparing a technical response to the consultation which will be submitted before the deadline on Feb3 and published on the council’s website.

How to respond

A summary of the council’s views on the consultation is included below which residents can consider in forming their own response. You can also read the full report on the consultation on the council’s website.

Email your response to airports.consultation@systra.com or send your views by post to:

Freepost RTKX-USUC-CXAS
Airports Commission Consultation
PO Box 1492
Woking
GU22 2QR

SUMMARY OF COUNCIL RESPONSE

HEATHROW

We oppose expansion at Heathrow. The Commission's evidence confirms what was already known - expansion here would do extraordinary, unacceptable levels of damage to the quality of life experienced in many part of London including Wandsworth. These environmental costs far outweigh the potential economic benefits.

Heathrow’s location in the most densely populated part of the country means that the full range of negative impacts are maximised. The highest possible number of homes, schools, parks and gardens would be subjected to noise and air pollution by adding capacity in this location.

The Commission's documents show that an expanded Heathrow would expose more people to noise than all the other hub airports in Europe combined. This is not a viable proposal to pursue and politically impossible to deliver.

Night flights

Night flights are by far the most damaging aspect of Heathrow operations.  Regardless of expansion night flights should be banned at Heathrow and the Commission should recommend this is done immediately.

Noise

Heathrow’s claim that the airport can fly 200,000 extra plans a year over surrounding communities and reduce its noise impacts are simply not credible. More planes mean more noise and any recommendation or decisions on expansion should reflect this clear and simple fact.

The UK Government’s policy of predicting noise impacts on the basis of a social survey carried out more than 30 years ago is unacceptable and the Commission should challenge this approach. The public has no faith in computer generated ‘noise contours’ and will not accept decisions based on them. The Commission should challenge Government policy on noise.

Heathrow’s claims that quieter aircraft and steeper landing approaches will reduce noise significantly do not stand up to scrutiny. The CAA says that “despite incentives….there has been no evidence that airlines have changed their normal fleet replacement cycles” and “it is clear that benefits of [steeper] approaches are relatively small”. The improvements in noise will be marginal and any recommendation or decisions on expansion should reflect this.

Heathrow is proposing a new noise ‘respite’ system which involves new multiple curved arrival routes instead of the two relatively straight, single streams of aircraft used today. Neither Heathrow nor the Commission has the power to deliver this untested system. The Commission should note that the relatively simple respite arrangements operated today only work around half of the time as they are overruled for safety reasons. This new respite proposal should only be taken into account until after it has been tested and proven with a 2 runway airport.

Compensation & Mitigation

Current day noise and air quality impacts at Heathrow are not acceptable, and there is a need to mitigate and compensate both of these adequately before future expansion can be considered.

Mitigation must include relief to the areas suffering from early morning flights, all educational establishments, compensation from loss of predictable respite, compensation for loss of enjoyment of amenity including gardens. This should apply to homes and property in Wandsworth under the existing flightpaths. With any expansion options this level of mitigation must be broadened to include those newly exposed to overflights.

In relation to property compensation this must be set at a level to allow communities to buy like for like properties. There must be funding given to the surrounding local and, where relevant, regional authorities for the provision of lost facilities and for the provision of new employee facilities. All of these costs must be added to the Heathrow expansion cost estimates before a recommendation is made.

Deliverability

Neither Heathrow expansion proposals are deliverable. The reaction to the new departure routes over Teddington which were trialled before Christmas was extraordinary. Heathrow’s third runway proposal involves creating dozens of new routes like this over London and the political and community backlash will be impossible to overcome.

It is very disappointing that indicative flightpaths for a three runway Heathrow have not been published as part of this consultation. People need to know how they could be affected to provide an informed response.

The Heathrow Hub option would vastly increase the number of flights along existing flightpaths and directly over communities who are already extremely sensitive to noise and very well organised in their opposition to expansion. These communities include millions of people and they have proved time and time again that they can defeat any plans which add to their noise burden.

Cost

The Commission’s investigation shows expanding Heathrow would cost the taxpayer billions but the full amount has not been identified.  Major projects like road widening / tunnelling for the M25, the western rail link connection and southern rail access are not costed. The total price tag has to be calculated before a credible recommendation can be made.

GATWICK

The Commission’s investigation points to Gatwick expansion as the best option for increasing aviation capacity.

This project can be delivered with a fraction of the noise and air quality impact of Heathrow. The Commission’s own data shows that 18,200 people will be newly affected by noise with a second runway, compared with more than 320,000 at Heathrow.

The cost of expansion is much lower than Heathrow with no taxpayer subsidy required.

Gatwick expansion can be delivered sooner than it can at Heathrow and with less risk.

Gatwick would also have the potential to drive growth and job creation across South London including at Clapham Junction thanks to its direct 25 minute rail connection.

Allowing Gatwick to expand would create greater competition in the airports sector which is in the interests of our residents and London as a whole.