New Study: Dramatic increase in flight numbers over parts of South East London

A new study (1) reveals a dramatic increase in the number of flights over many areas of South East London in recent years.  Corridors of Concentration, published today by HACAN and Plane Hell Action, also found that flight paths have become more concentrated. The study was carried out to highlight the current impact of aircraft noise on south east London and to influence the policy debate by feeding into Heathrow’s recent consultation on future flight path design.

Over a dozen areas from Clapham Common in the west to Greenwich in the east were surveyed.  The number of aircraft audible from each location was recorded.  Key counts were verified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The study found that:

  • The area is heavily overflown, with typically 38 planes an hour audible to many communities.  This could rise to over 40 during busy periods.
  • Increased concentration of flights has taken place in recent years. More than ever, flights are being guided through ‘concentrated corridors’ which means particular communities are especially badly hit.
  • The overall number of flights is much the same as when we last surveyed the area 10 years ago but this masks significant changes in certain places:

– the number of flights in the east of the region has increased dramatically: daily flights in the Brockley corridor grew by 135 between 2011 and 2017; Greenwich saw an increase of 165 a day.

– flight numbers in the ‘southern corridor’ – which is focused on the southern runway – have risen significantly.

– increased concentration has meant more flights for particular communities.  Although the study focused on daytime flights, it found evidence to suggest night flights have also become more concentrated.

The study concluded many more planes are joining their final approach corridors further east than before and are more concentrated within those corridors.   Increased concentration and the join point shifting have meant that people living south of the river are experiencing an increased density of turning aircraft over their homes.

The study made three key recommendations:

  • In the short-term, flight paths need to be varied as much as possible to reduce the concentration identified.
  • The practice of concentrating night flights over particular communities should be avoided.
  • In the longer-term, when Heathrow redesigns its airspace, it needs to ensure that the new technology is used to distribute arrivals fairly over multiple approach routes.

 Dan Scorer, of Plane Hell Action, said: “This study confirms everything that people have been telling us across south east London.  The increased concentration of flights is driving many people to despair, with no escape from the constant noise over our heads.  We can’t wait 7 years for Heathrow to change flight paths – action is needed now.”

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “This study makes a powerful case that the problems caused by flights to Heathrow are not confined to West London and areas close to the airport.  For many communities in South East London the situation has got worse rather than better over the last decade.”


 Notes for editors:

(1). Link to the study:

For further information:

John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650

Dan Scorer on 07949 653 704