I’ve been checking the emails HACAN has received over the last two months. There is one striking feature. Over 95% of those which contain a complaint are from people living in areas that get aircraft noise all day long.
Some are about departure routes that have become more concentrated. Some are about arrivals over places that get no respite.
Astonishingly, not one has come from the parts of West London which enjoy a half day’s break from the noise when landing aircraft switch runways at 3pm each day.
The message couldn’t be clearer. It is a period of relief from the noise which people value above all else. Heathrow has commissioned a major study to assess what meaningful respite might look like and how it could be introduced. It is the first airport in the world to undertake such a wide-ranging study. It is due to be published next spring.
The plans for a new runway at Heathrow – if it ever given the go-ahead – all include provision for respite. The most creative come from Heathrow Hub (who want to extend the existing northern runway). The brains behind the scheme is the highly respected former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe. He argues that is feasible and safe for planes to join their final approach path as close as three miles from the airport, thus allowing for multiple respite routes.
Respite is also expected to feature in the Government’s proposals when it consults on airspace changes later this year.
But the clear message from the HACAN emails is that people are not to wait for some relief from the noise; they want it the day before yesterday. In the hot summer weather many of those living in the noise ghettos are in despair. They are angry and want change. They may differ a little on how they define ‘respite’ – some prefer the words relief, dispersal, sharing it around – but they are all united in one call: ‘Give us a Break from the Noise’.