17th August 2003

Airport Noise Complaints Rise by 54 per cent

The revelation by BAA of a 54 per cent increase in the number of people complaining about noise from planes using Stansted airport has set alarm bells ringing about the prospect for the future if further expansion is allowed to go ahead.

The news that so many more people contacted the official noise complaints line operated by the airport’s Flight Evaluation Unit in 2002/03 compared with the previous year was buried deep in the third appendix of the glossy Towards Sustainability report just published by the airport operator.

In the document, BAA reports that 3537 members of the local community complained last year – up from 2298 the previous year. It is clear from this that the numbers of people disturbed by noise is increasing dramatically.

As a result, campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion has renewed its calls for better representation of the noise impacts of planes on the community, so that the figures don’t suggest progress is being made when it isn’t.

Said Chris Bennett, chair of Stop Stansted Expansion’s Noise Working Group: ” We’ve seen a major rise in 2002-3 in the number of people complaining about noise – and especially from areas such as Sawbridgeworth and Harlow, Ware and Hoddesdon which are now receiving a greater proportion of overflights from Stansted.”

“However,” he added, “current noise mapping procedures average out the true picture so that instead of showing how badly certain communities are affected at peak times – or how little respite they get from planes – the maps suggest that people who regularly suffer are not in fact affected at all.”

Continued Chris Bennett: “We are aware that even the Department for Transport believes current methods of noise assessment to be inadequate and in need of an overhaul. We couldn’t agree more. It is a complete nonsense to average the quiet periods with the noisy periods and then report that everything is within acceptable limits.”

Chris Bennett also cautioned that the situation would be intolerable if the number of planes were to quadruple with the addition of an extra runway. The impact would be particularly severe in summer and at night. Enjoying an afternoon in the garden or having the windows open would become virtually impossible for those under a flight path or living near the airport.”



1. Stop Stansted Expansion has prepared noise maps indicating the effects on the region in the event of extra runways being added at Stansted. Although they are still, for technical reasons, necessarily based on the misleading averaging of quiet and noisy periods, they do at least partially correct for this by showing separately the predicted effects of particular operational patterns on specific areas.

2. SSE has also produced a map showing how much further afield the complainants are located, compared to the official DfT area of noise disturbance. The maps can be accessed on the campaign website at www.stopstanstedexpansion.com or requested from the campaign office on 01279 870558.

3. To report noisy or off-track aircraft, members of the public can contact the Stansted Flight Evaluation Unit on (email) stanstednoiseline@baa.co.uk or (freephone) 0800 243788 (not listed in the phone book). Alternatively, emails can be sent via the Stop Stansted Expansion website.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits