7th February 2003

New Team to Show Real Airport Noise Picture

Stop Stansted Expansion has set up a specialist Noise Working Group to prove that the government has grossly underestimated how the region would be affected by airport and air traffic noise if proposals for adding extra runways at Stansted were to go ahead.

The move follows concerns that the government’s forecasts for noise are, in reality, far lower than the effects currently experienced by a broad swathe of the regional population across Hertfordshire, Essex and Suffolk.

Hadstock resident Chris Bennett, who has tracked noise impacts across the region since 1998, heads the team and provides the link with the main executive committee of Stop Stansted Expansion.

An early objective is to extract information from the government about the basis on which it calculated the numbers and locations of those who would be affected by the expansion of capacity at the airport, as described in the first round of the airport expansion consultation. The assumptions used will have covered, amongst other things, information on aircraft types, flight routes, take off and landing paths, but no detail has yet been received despite requests from the campaign team to the Department for Transport.

When it does arrive, the information will be used to develop clearer pictures of exactly who will be affected and how, going beyond the limitations of the SERAS Consultation’s noise contour maps based on the Leq ‘averaging’ system to provide a better understanding of what any increased noise impact will mean in practical terms. This is particularly important for rural environments where noise intrusion takes place at much lower decibel levels than in towns. A further assessment will also be carried out using World Health Organisation and EU guidelines which are far more stringent than those applied by the UK government.

The true extent of the existing noise problem was revealed in the campaign group’s formal response to the consultation, issued in mid-January, which included an analysis of Stansted Airport’s own Flight Evaluation Unit logs between the period April and September 2002. These detail the actual complaints about excessively noisy or offtrack flights registered by the public via the airport’s freephone line between April and September 2002. They show that the forecast areas of disturbance are much smaller than the actual areas that are already suffering from noise disturbance. (See www.stopstanstedexpansion.com/maps.html).

Analysis of the logs showed significant numbers of complaints across a 60 by 30 mile area with the airport at its heart, with a core concentration in the area between Chelmsford and Braintree in the East, Hertford in the West, and from Haverhill and Saffron Walden in the North down to Epping and Cheshunt in the South.

Complaints from outside the core area also included calls from East Bergholt in relation to Dedham Vale ­ a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ­ as well as Nayland and Roydon, then further out to the East coast across Constable Country.

“When we can see from the current picture that people are being disturbed so badly already it is completely unjustifiable to claim that up to three additional runways and five times as many aircraft movements won’t significantly affect noise levels across the region,” commented Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Norman Mead.

“In fact,” he continued, “so great is the disturbance likely to be caused by an airport serving 129 million people per year instead of the current 15 million that we should expect to see a marked deterioration in health ­ particularly amongst the more vulnerable such as children and the elderly ­ and education. Even safety could be compromised as people’s ability to concentrate is diminished as a result of poor and broken sleep and fewer periods of respite from airport and aircraft noise during the day.”

The Noise Working Group will also be looking at the separate but related government-led ‘Night Flights Consultation’, due to start shortly, in connection with new, and possibly increased, quotas for Stansted. In the meantime, anyone wishing to register a complaint about noise from the airport or planes should do so by calling the freephone line, 0800 243 788, with details of time, date, location and the nature of the problem.

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