4th October 2021
Airport in “Shameless” Bid for More Night Flights
Manchester Airports Group (‘MAG’), the owners of Stansted Airport, have sent a 144-page submission to the Department for Transport (‘DfT’) which includes a proposal that the current limit on the number of permitted night flights at Stansted should be completely removed. MAG has also told the DfT that it opposes proposed night time bans of the noisiest aircraft types.
The DfT is responsible for regulating night flights at Stansted and MAG’s submission is in response to a DfT consultation which asked a range of questions to obtain views on the future arrangements. One of the questions asked was: “Should we remove the movement limit and manage night flights through a QC [Quota Count] limit only?” MAG’s one-word answer was “Yes”. [Note 1]
The current position is that there is limit on the number of flights as well as a QC limit. Removal of the numerical limit would amount to a major relaxation of the night flights restrictions. MAG’s position is therefore in clear breach of a planning agreement which Stansted Airport signed with Uttlesford District Council (‘UDC’) in May 2003, as follows:
“From the date of this agreement not to seek any relaxation of the night flight restrictions currently in force for the night period of 23.00 – 06.59 or for the night quota period of 23.30 – 05.59”
Stansted Airport Watch (‘SAW’) chairman Brian Ross pulled no punches when he raised the matter with the airport managing director at a meeting of the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee (‘STACC’) last Wednesday. He pointed out that Stansted already had more than twice as many night flights as Heathrow and he read out the terms of a planning agreement which Stansted Airport had signed with Uttlesford District Council (‘UDC’) in May 2003, as above.
Neither the Airport Managing Director nor his MAG colleagues were able to provide a satisfactory explanation for this clear breach of the planning agreement. SAW has now written to the Chief Executive of UDC asking him to intervene.
It is widely recognised that noise from aircraft taking-off and landing at night is the most disturbing aspect of airport operations [Note 2] and the most recent advice from the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’) “strongly recommends” reducing aircraft noise levels below 40dB (average decibels) at night in the light of evidence that aircraft noise above these levels has adverse effects on community health. [Note 3]
SAW Health Adviser, Professor Jangu Banatvala CBE, who has published numerous papers on the adverse health impacts of airports [Note 4], commented: “Sleep deprivation arising from aircraft noise at night causes fatigue and higher levels of stress and anxiety with adverse impacts upon the health and wellbeing of local residents. The evidence from numerous studies shows also that those living in the vicinity of airports have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, with the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions at particular risk from the effects of aircraft night noise. There is also clear evidence that sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on the cognitive development of schoolchildren living in the vicinity of airports.”
SAW Noise Adviser Martin Peachey added: “Stansted Airport’s 144-page submission to the DfT makes no mention whatsoever of the WHO’s “strong recommendation” that aircraft noise at night should be brought below 40dB. Crucially, the only way of achieving this is to ban the noisiest aircraft types and reduce the number of night flights. However, MAG opposes a ban on the noisiest aircraft and wants the limit on the number of night flights to be removed, showing a lack of concern for the health and wellbeing of the local community.”
SAW Chairman Brian Ross concluded: “This is not just about MAG putting profits before the health and wellbeing of local residents. It is also about trust and integrity. How can we have confidence in any agreement which Stansted Airport signs up to when MAG is prepared, shamelessly, to break that agreement when it is in MAG’s financial interests to do so?” [Note 5]
- See – MAG-Response-to-DfT-Night-Flight-Restrictions-Consultation-2-September-2021.pdf (stanstedairportwatch.com)– in particular MAG’s response to Questions 42 and 43 (p.17-18) and to Question 49 (p.21). Note that the ‘Quota Count’ is a points system related to the noise impact of each aircraft type, such that a large B747-400 has a QC of 4 on departure whilst a Ryanair B737-8 has a QC of 0.25. Thus, for example, a nightly QC limit of 100 points, would allow 25 departures by B747-400s or 400 departures by B737-8s.
- DfT Night Flights Consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/night-flight-restrictions-at-heathrow-gatwick-and-stansted-airports-between-2022-and-2024-plus-future-night-flight-policy/night-flight-restrictions – ‘Background’, paragraph 1.
- The most recent World Health Organisation Aircraft Noise Guidelines are at WHO/Europe | Publications – Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region (2018)
- For example:
- Unhealthy Airports, Banatvala J, The Lancet, Aug 2004; https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(04)16911-0/fulltext
- Aviation and Public Health, Banatvala J, British Medical Journal, Feb 2013;
- Cardiovascular Effects of Environmental Noise Exposure, Munzel T et al, European Heart Journal, Feb 2018 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3971384/
- The harms to health caused by aviation noise require urgent action, Banatvala J, British Medical Journal, Sep 2019 – https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l5329
- MAG’s largest private shareholder, Conyers Trust Company, with 50% of the voting rights, is based in the Cayman Islands – mahl-fy21-final-signed-12072021.pdf (magairports.com), p.26.
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