It is half as far from Heathrow as Edinburgh is from Glasgow. So why is aircraft noise a problem in Brockley? It is in South East London in the borough of Lewisham, over 20 miles from the airport. And yet alight at Brockley Station and the dominant noise you will hear is from planes passing overhead.
It is part of Heathrow’s forgotten catchment area which stretches at least 25 miles from the airport. It takes in Brockley, Leytonstone and Walthamstow to the east and places like Bracknell and Reading to the west.
Perhaps because it is forgotten, it is the area from which HACAN gets most emails. I think there are two simple reasons for this: one, people who move into these places don’t expect to be neighbours of Heathrow; and, two, the area gets a constant stream of aircraft. Large parts of West London enjoy a half day’s break from the noise when planes switch runways at 3pm. This wider catchment area gets no such predicable respite. It is interesting that a careful look at Heathrow’s complaint statistics for all areas reveal a clear correlation between complaints and lack of respite.
HACAN remains opposed to a third runway particularly because of the impact a quarter of a million extra flights would have on areas closer to Heathrow. But get off the train at Brockley and or the underground at Leytonstone and the talk will not be of a third runway; but it may well be about aircraft noise or flight paths.
Respite (or controlled dispersal which some communities would prefer) could be introduced at a two-runway Heathrow. The technology exists to allow precision flying which would enable it to happen. But Heathrow is reluctant to make major changes to its flight paths until there is certainty about a new runway.
If a third runway does get the go-ahead, HACAN is urging Heathrow to remember its forgotten catchment area and commit to introducing multiple flight paths, rotated on a regular basis, so that, for at least part of the time when you alight from the train at Brockley or the underground at Leytonstone, you don’t hear a plane in the sky, whatever direction the wind is blowing.
We are suggesting that respite is guaranteed within a 25 mile radius of Heathrow. Beyond that, where the planes are higher, communities tell us they prefer an element of dispersal.
It would end two decades of constant noise for hundreds of thousands of people. Heathrow doesn’t need me, a veteran opponent of a third runway, to tell them that this might be one of its key selling points.