Mayhem of ‘motorway in the sky’ raises health issues for residents

    Mrs Williams

    TUNBRIDGE WELLS MP Greg Clark is calling on Gatwick to be ‘a much better neighbour’ as he presses for meetings with the airport’s bosses on tackling the impact of noisy low flying aircraft.

    It comes 18 months after an Independent Review of Arrivals was published, which recommended a number of measures to reduce the intrusiveness of air traffic.

    They were pressured into the review after changes to the airport’s flight-path meant a greater concentration of aircraft flying through a narrower route. Dubbed a ‘motorway in the sky’, it has caused considerable distress to those living in the affected towns and villages.

    Writing for the Times [page 24] Mr Clark, who is also the Business Minister, said: “The changes to date have far from solved the problem. The full implementation of all the Independent Review’s recommendations is needed quickly so that the levels of disturbance particularly at night might be reduced to those experienced in 2013, or lower.”

    For some, the increased noise is ruining their quality of life. Gill Williams (pictured) has lived in Crowborough for nearly 70 years but the frequency of aircraft above her house has turned the quiet suburban area into a noisy nightmare. “Sometimes they are flying every minute. It’s like living under a constant thunder storm. Every time you open your door to come into the garden they’re there.

    “The noise is just unbelievable. I’ve been to meetings and tried my hardest to live with this menace, but I can’t.” she said.

    Her GP stated his concern for the ‘detrimental effect that [the volume and low altitude of air traffic] is having on her mental and physical wellbeing’. And despite the impact of Gatwick’s flight-path change, Mrs Williams feels she and other residents have been ignored.

    “For the new proposed HS2 railway, there have been numerous consultations about the planned route with the general public – why was there no consultation for this?” she asked.

    Their case was taken to court by ‘Gatwick Obviously Not’ a group that campaign for the ‘fair use of skies’ along with one of the country’s top aviation lawyers, John Steel QC.

    It led to Gatwick announcing they would be re-widening the flightpath by August 2016. However Mrs Williams has not seen any improvement, describing 2017 as ‘the worst year so far’.

    Last year the airport welcomed an extra three million passengers, a 7.7 per cent increase on the previous year.

    When we put Mrs Williams’ complaints to Gatwick, a spokesperson said: “Gatwick recognises that aircraft noise impacts on people living near the airport and will continue to do everything possible to minimise its effects.

    “The Noise Management Board brings the local community and industry together formally for the first time to improve the situation for those affected by noise from aircraft using Gatwick.

    “Improvements so far include a continuous descent approach (CDA) for aircraft so they use less thrust and generate less noise by descending at a continuous rate.”

    Is the future looking up?
    A new system of fl ight dispersal has been proposed for the airport, dubbed the Fair and Equitable Distribution or FED. Although, this is not currently expected to be available for widespread use at Gatwick before 2022. Some hope lies with the development of technology, even after the UK’s National Air Traffic Control Service [NATS] warned that
    UK airspace is becoming over-crowded last month [July 21]. “Local communities are very obviously concerned about what more traffi c might look like, but actually modernising [airspace] means we can keep aircraft higher for longer,” said NATS Chief Executive Martin Rolfe.

    Still another runway at Gatwick?
    It has been over two years since the Davies Commission unanimously recommended building a third runway at Heathrow Airport. However, chief executive of Gatwick Stewart Wingate hopes the creation of a second runway at Gatwick Airport could still happen. “What we would like to see as part of the airport strategy is an endorsement of an additional runway as well as or instead of one at Heathrow,” he has stated. Mr Wingate’s statement comes after Gatwick welcomed a record 44.1 million passengers for 2016/2017, a growth of 7.7 per cent from last year. In 2015, the airport’s advert which stated that 17 times more people would be affected by noise at Heathrow compared to Gatwick was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for ‘misleading the public’.