Some years ago, while doing some work for the UK Noise Association, I was asked to shortlist the noisiest roads in the UK. I took a trip like no other. Not for me seeking out the quiet beauty spots, the wooded glens or the babbling brooks. I was on a mission to find the noisiest roads…and to spend as much time beside them as possible.
There are similar noise ‘hotspots’ under the Heathrow flight paths. Go down to Cranford, for example, the last settlement in Hounslow before you reach Heathrow. Mere words can’t convey the intensity of the noise.
Cranford, rightly, gets special insulation treatment. Homes, including roofs, are fully insulated. It get’s respite, a half day’s break from the noise when the planes are landing, but respite alone would not be enough. It needs and gets ‘respite plus’.
Cranford, along with some of the other places, very close to the airport are obvious candidates for respite plus. But are there others? Are there less obvious hotspots which could qualify?
Heathrow is committed to the principle of respite but should it be looking at additional measures that would be required in the hotspots. Of course, ‘hotspots’ would need to be carefully defined as funds are not limitless.
I would suggest that these are the sort of criteria which could be used in defining a hotspot:
- The noise of the aircraft
- The frequency of the aircraft
- The number of hours without a break
- Whether an area gets both arrivals and departures
- Whether an area is overflown by aircraft from one or more flight path or airport
Perhaps the defining criteria would be that somebody living in a hot spot could be endangering their mental or physical health if ‘respite plus’ was not offered. There may be a role for the soon-to-be-established Independent Noise Authority in helping define the criteria.
The airport – any airport – would then be required to work alongside the householders and the local authority to look at what respite plus might entail. This would not be an easy task but the first step on the road would be to recognise there are hotspots where respite on its own may not be enough to mitigate the noise problem.