London’s parks blighted by aircraft noise

New report to be launched by Darren Johnson, Mayor’s Environment Adviser

Darren Johnson, the Mayor’s Advisor on the Environment and Leader of the Green Group on the London Assembly, is set to launch a new report which highlights the way many of London’s most famous parks have become blighted by aircraft noise (1). The illustrated report, published by HACAN ClearSkies, which represents residents living under the flight path to Heathrow, will be launched at 11am on Monday 2nd October on Clapham Common (2).

John Stewart, the Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, said, “Since aircraft started making use of the extended flight paths in recent years, many of London’s best-known parks have become ruined by aircraft noise. From Hounslow Heath in the west to Greenwich in the east, aircraft noise has become a problem. London’s parks used to be oases of peace and quiet amongst the hustle and bustle of life in the Capital. Now many of them have become a plane spotter’s paradise.”

Darren Johnson said, “For far too long the social and environmental costs of increases in air traffic have been ignored. Aircraft noise is a nightmare for many Londoners, not only disturbing people’s sleep patterns in their own homes, but threatening the tranquillity of our open spaces, too. The Mayor must produce an Ambient Noise Strategy which finally gives us a real opportunity to start tackling this problem and I very much welcome HACAN’s report.”

Notes for Editors

  1. London’s Blighted Parks highlights what is happening to 10 of London’s best-known green spaces. There are. of course. many other areas affected by aircraft noise. HACAN ClearSkies used a normal camera to take the pictures, so as to avoid any accusation that planes were superimposed on the photographs. As a result some of the planes appear to be flying high enough not to be disturbing. That, of course, is not the case.

  2. The launch will take place on Clapham Common just after 11am. People will gather outside Clapham Common Underground Station at 11am and then make their way to the Common, just a few minutes walk away.

Many of London’s green spaces are being ruined by aircraft noise. Our report features ten of the most famous — Greenwich Park, Blackheath, Hilly Fields, Dulwich Park, Clapham Common, Battersea Park, Richmond Green, Kew Gardens, Osterley Park and Hounslow Heath.

A letter to Tony Blair

HACAN ClearSkies wrote to the Prime Minister and the press released the letter.

Rt. Hon Tony Blair MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

21st September 2000

Dear Mr. Blair

I am writing to urge you to reverse a trend that is undermining London’s reputation as a world-class city, adversely affecting the lives of its inhabitants, and steadily increasing the risk of a major disaster in the heart of London.

You said recently that direct action was not the way to influence public policy in a parliamentary democracy. I would like to prove you right.

Nearly half a million aircraft now land in Heathrow every year. Almost all of them fly over London. One million people now live under the Heathrow flight path. In July, the number of aircraft over flying London exceeded the figure BAA had forecast for 2013 only five years ago. That means homes as far east as Lewisham and New Cross now have aircraft flying low overhead every 60-90 seconds from 6am to 11.30pm: incredibly, sometimes nearly 1000 planes a day. There is also increasing concern about the pollutants they emit and the effect they may be having on the health of Londoners.

In a global economy where quality of life indexes increasingly make the difference in decisions to locate corporate headquarters, this is bad business. The City’s competitiveness depends crucially on London continuing to attract such investment. In a country where environmental considerations are becoming increasingly important in the way people vote, I believe you will agree that this is also bad politics. But perhaps most importantly, following the recent tragedy outside Paris, none of us — politicians and Londoners alike — can be complacent about the possibility of a major air disaster striking the very heart of London. Unlike Paris, where air traffic controllers divert aircraft away from built up areas, a similar disaster in London could kill literally thousands of people on the ground.

This is not scaremongering. With nearly half a million now flying over London every year and rising, the chance of such an accident is no longer negligible. In 1999 there were 76 near-misses in the UK, the vast majority of them over London and the South East. I hope it will not take such a disaster to reverse this dangerous and unsustainable rise in aircraft over London.

You and your ministers have the power to reverse this trend and make London a safer and better place in which to live. I urge you to consider your responsibilities as you examine the Inspector’s report on the Terminal 5 inquiry, and prepare to publish the Government’s consultation document on aviation policy.

In particular, I urge you to consider the following options; options that would both lessen the number and annoyance of aircraft over flying London without restricting the increasing consumer and business demand for air travel:

Use your power over flight paths to divert aircraft away from built up areas, and to spread them out as much as possible

Develop the principle of burden-sharing between London’s major airports to take the unsustainable pressure off Heathrow (including the improvement of transport infrastructure to speed links in to central London)

Impose noise limits on aircraft landing at Heathrow (noise limits currently only apply to aircraft taking off from the airport)

Work with other countries in the EU and with the US to encourage airlines to switch to larger, quieter aircraft, and so reduce the number of flights

I very much hope you will be able to support us. We will be informing our 25,000 members and affiliated members of your response, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Londoners who feel strongly about this issue.

Yours sincerely,
John Stewart

Reply from the Prime Minister still awaited.

Heathrow Flight Numbers Reach BAA’s Terminal 5 Forecast 13 Years Early

BAA had greatly underestimated the number of planes that would use Heathrow.

Pressure Group, HACAN ClearSkies, presents abacus to BAA top management to help them with their sums

The pressure group, HACAN ClearSkies, which represents residents living under the flight path to Heathrow, presented BAA with an abacus to emphasise the extent to which they got their sums wrong over Terminal 5 (1). BAA have proved to be 13 years out-of-date with their forecasts regarding flight numbers at Heathrow. They told the Terminal 5 Inquiry in 1995 that by 2013, passenger flight numbers would reach 453,000 with Terminal 5 and that they would remain at that level. In fact, they reached that number in July of this year.

John Stewart, Chair HACAN ClearSkies, said, “BAA have been utterly discredited. The Inquiry Inspector, who is currently writing his report, must now look very carefully at all their figures. We have made an application to the Guinness Book of Records for the worst forecasting yet by a FTSE 100 Company. Residents fear that unless a cap is set on the number of flights landing at Heathrow the noise will become even more unbearable and safety problems will inevitably get worse.”

Notes for Editors

  1. A group of members of HACAN ClearSkies presented the Abacus, nicely mounted in marble, to BAA headquarters at 130 Wilton Road, London SW1 on Friday 25th August at 11am.

Follow-up: The press release received major coverage in both the local and national media.

October: HACAN ClearSkies launches an illustrated report on the way London’s parks are being blighted by aircraft noise.