17th July 2017
No Relief for Sleepless Nights Under New Flight Rules
New night flight rules covering the next five years have been described as a missed opportunity to bring relief to the tens of thousands of people under Stansted flight paths who regularly suffer from broken sleep because of overflying aircraft.
According to Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), the Night Flight Restrictions at Stansted Airport, set to be introduced in October, don’t go nearly far enough to tackle the very serious impacts of night flights in terms of sleep disturbance and adverse health impacts.
The announcement of the new night flights regime followed a government consultation earlier this year during which more than 90 percent of all responses were made by individuals, communities and environmental groups, with many seeking an outright ban on night flights. In spite of this, more weight has been given to industry demands than community concerns.
SSE’s noise adviser Martin Peachey expressed disappointment at the new rules, saying that it could have been the opportunity to reduce the harmful impacts of aircraft noise at night: “Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said that he is ‘fully aware that noise is a major concern for those living near Stansted Airport and that night noise is widely regarded as the most disturbing impact of aviation‘, but the new rules won’t actually lessen the impacts that people will experience, or improve the quality of their sleep between 11.30pm and 6am.”
SSE maintains that local communities around Stansted and under related flight paths should have been provided with a more equitable balance of environmental protection. Instead, the Secretary of State has simply paid lip service to local concerns with his words, choosing to prioritise the economic benefits of night flights with his actions.
One aspect of the new rules, however, has been welcomed by SSE. While the Government has decided to maintain the present 12,000 annual night time movements at Stansted, some 1,700 hitherto ‘exempt’ aircraft will also be added to the numbers. The use of ‘less noisy’ aircraft at night has grown rapidly in recent years but no account had been taken of their cumulative impact in terms of creating noise nuisance and impacting on sleep. Under the new arrangements, these previously ‘exempt’ aircraft will now be recognised and controlled within the overall allowable aircraft movements.
SSE will continue to work to raise awareness of its four key demands to improve conditions for those who are currently overflown at night in future night flight rules, gathering evidence to press the case for:
* An unequivocal Government commitment to phase out all night flights at Stansted by 2030, except in the case of genuine emergencies;
* The annual limit on Stansted night flights to apply, not just from 11.30pm to 6.00am, but from 11.00pm to 7.00am, so that ‘night’ truly means ‘night’, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Guidelines on Community Noise;
* A radical overhaul of the current ‘averaging’ method for measuring aircraft noise so that the official Government noise statistics start to represent what people actually have to endure;
* An immediate ban on all night time aircraft landings at Stansted from using reverse thrust, except in the case of genuine emergencies.
The publication of the new Night Flight Restrictions was announced in a written statement to Parliament: ‘Update on the Airports NPS and a decision on night flights’, is available here.
The Government decision document – ‘Night flight restrictions at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted’ – can be accessed here.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
Martin Peachey, SSE noise adviser: 01279 870374; (M) 07803 603999 firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE, M 0777 552 3091, email@example.com
SSE Campaign Office, T 01279 870558; firstname.lastname@example.org