30th July 2006

BAA agrees to correct misleading Property Pack information

BAA has agreed to correct misleading information on the noise impacts that would result from expansion proposals for Stansted Airport issued in its Property Pack. The move comes after Stop Stansted Expansion’s (SSE) Norman Mead drew attention to a major error in its contents at the latest Stansted Airport Consultative Committee meeting (26 July 2006).

The Plane Talk newsletter, produced by the airport developer and used in the pack, reproduces an error contained in several sections of BAA’s application for expanding the use of Stansted’s single runway.

SSE’s concerns arose following bulk distribution of the pack by BAA to a network of over 1000 estate agents, banks, solicitors and similar organisations who are now in danger of passing on inaccurate information concerning the effects of noise increases to home-buyers who could easily be misled as a result. In addition, the Plane Talk newsletter has already been distributed to thousands of homes within the local community.

The newsletter misinterprets a statement from official government planning guidance to support BAA’s claim that the increased noise of 3 dBA Leq from a higher number of aircraft movements ‘is imperceptible and not considered to be significant’. In fact, this is completely untrue.

Norman Mead told Stansted Airport’s Managing Director Terry Morgan: “As I’m sure your noise experts are aware an increase of 3 decibels in an Leq based measurement is most definitely perceptible: indeed a 3 decibel Leq increase represents a doubling of the total sound energy which could for instance be occasioned by a doubling of the number of aircraft movements.”

Speaking after the meeting, Norman Mead added: “This is the second time that the Property Pack has contained a major error the first occasion being the inclusion of incorrect arrivals maps in the first edition which it took BAA a year to amend. Even now these are still in circulation and it is therefore incumbent on BAA to take rapid and responsible action to remedy this latest piece of misleading information.”

Norman Mead sits on the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee in his role as General Secretary, North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association, parent organisation of Stop Stansted Expansion of which he is currently Acting Chairman. A copy of the letter he sent to Stansted Airport’s Managing Director in advance of the STACC meeting as notification of intention to raise the issue can be provided on request.

BAA’s error referred to in the second paragraph above appears in its Environmental Statement: Non Technical Summary para 5.1.5 and Volume 1 Master Volume para 10.1.20.

The Government planning guidance document referred to is PPG24 and the section quoted by BAA states that ‘a change of 3 decibels is the minimum perceptible under normal conditions.’ This is perfectly correct when used in the context in which PPG24 is using it – in other words when discussing a single noise peak from one overflying aircraft. But it is by no means true of the situation that BAA is referring to, which is the method for measuring the total noise from, for instance, an airport over a period of time. This metric is called Leq (Equivalent Continuous Sound level) and, in simplified terms, this averages all the noise events with the quiet moments in between in order to give a simple, single-figure picture.

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