24th June 2003
New Noise Maps show extra 70,000 would be affected by Stansted Expansion ort
Based on the World Health Organisation definition of what is acceptable in terms of noise annoyance, SSE used software developed by the USA’s Federal Aviation Authority to define noise contours more accurately for mapping against demographic data for 2002. This reveals that 70,000 people more than previously thought would be affected by expansion of Stansted if the so-called ‘airport in the countryside’ is allowed to become the world’s largest airport, growing from 16m in 2002 to 129m passengers in 2030. The number of people affected could be higher still, given that the software errs on the side of caution in its calculations.
The demographic data for the initiative was provided by the highly respected specialist organisation CACI (who also supplied the demographic data in the DfT’s own consultation documents) and funded by Uttlesford District Council and Saffron Walden Town Council. The demographic figures are three years more up to date than those used by the DfT.
And, while the government says that three extra runways would enable Stansted to become the biggest airport in the world, twice the size of Heathrow, BAA recently admitted that these same numbers could be achieved with the addition of just two more runways if they were positioned appropriately. This means that two extra runways could cause the same amount of noise nuisance in a full expansion scenario.
The World Health Organisation’s expert view of what constitutes a problem draws on international research to state that noise levels should not exceed 50 dBA Leq ‘to protect the majority of people from being moderately annoyed during the daytime.’
Commented Chris Bennett, Chair of Stop Stansted Expansion’s Noise Committee which has led the mapping team: “The Department for Transport ignores the World Health Organisation figures, preferring instead to use the much higher level of 57 dBA Leq. This grossly distorts the true picture and enables the DfT to conveniently dismiss the impact on some 70,000 or more people who would suffer if Stansted Airport was enlarged on the scale proposed.”
Furthermore, in areas of rural calm such as those enjoyed by Hertfordshire, Essex, South Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, where background levels of noise are considerably lower than in the urban areas around many airports sited close to towns, the difference between peaceful tranquillity and aircraft noise can, quite literally, be shattering. “Measurements professionally undertaken by Uttlesford District Council have shown that background noise levels in the Stansted area are some 25 to 30 dBA lower than the commonly accepted background levels for urban areas,” continued Chris Bennett.
However, using standard noise contour maps only goes a certain way to define the real picture of the true impacts on people. The current methodologies used by the Department for Transport grossly distort the view, diluting the impacts by an averaging system which takes into account periods of quiet as well as noise. The innovatory approach employed by Stop Stansted Expansion, however, gives a much more realistic picture.
The noise contours for 50 dBA Leq were separately produced for each of the two modes of aircraft operation (south westerly and north easterly), assuming 100 per cent of operations in each mode, ie. the average situation on three days in four and one day in four respectively based on current patterns. These results were then recombined into a single map to show, first, the areas of overlap which will suffer noise disturbance on every day and, second, the areas suffering for parts of the time.
Looking at the two directions of operations separately has meant that for the first time people can look beyond the ‘headline’ impact of averaged figures. The results show that the total areas suffering from 50 dBA Leq noise nuisance for at least some of the time are approx 35% greater than the traditional all-in-one composite maps indicate.
The results – which come at the eleventh hour before the consultation ends on 30th June – highlight for the first time ever the misleading effects on the noise contours of combining into one map the data from the two directions of operations by Stansted aircraft..
The maps can be accessed on-line at www.stopstanstedexpansion.com/maps_new_noise.html
The implications of the government’s miscalculations would be very serious for health, especially for such vulnerable groups as schoolchildren, the elderly and chronic sick in the event of expansion. Demographic information provided in conjunction with the noise maps produced by Stop Stansted Expansion’s noise team show that children under 14 and people over 65 account for 33,323 of the 100,000 who would be affected.
A number of globally recognised studies by such respected bodies as the World Health Organisation and the Dutch equivalent of Britain’s Medical Research Council have already proved the damaging impact of constant exposure to airport noise and pollution. Increased admissions to hospital and deaths from cardio-vascular disease are a consequence of airport-related pollution, and there is considerable concern about the increase in asthma among children in urban areas. Studies have also shown that noise interferes with study and classroom communications, as well as concentration in general.
Stop Stansted Expansion is urging anyone who is concerned about the effects of expansion at Stansted Airport to make their views known before the end of the consultation on 30 June by writing to: The Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR.
Sample letters and details of points to make can be obtained either from this website or by phoning the campaign office on 01279 870558. There will also be a ‘last minute letter writing point’ at the Vanishing Villages featuring Broxted Open Gardens on Sunday 29 June at the Browns End Cottage garden.