Crispin Blunt investigates recent increase in aircraft noise

Following a recent increase in complaints of increased aircraft noise over Redhill and Earlswood, Crispin Blunt today visited Gatwick Airport for an explanation, and also met with Heathrow and the MP for Mole Valley, Sir Paul Beresford, to identify the cause of the increase in overflight noise, and investigate potential remedies and future trends in aircraft noise patterns.

Following today's meetings, Crispin Blunt said:

"What follows is necessarily complex and I will be doing further work on this with Sir Paul Beresford MP. I understand the situation to be as follows:

Since 1st April 2014, aircraft taking off from Gatwick Airport have been guided by new technology called Precision Area Navigation (PR-NAV) system. This change is consistent with Department for Transport policy to make routes more tightly controlled and is a precursor to the implementation of the UK's Future Airspace Strategy which, in turn, is a requirement of the European Aviation Authority's Single European Skies programme, required to be delivered by 2019.

The next stage of this process is being consulted on now by Gatwick Airport Limited and National Air Traffic Control and I have already registered my concern about the potential implications of this for constituents in the south of the Redhill/Reigate area, but this is at least 18 months away from implementation and will be subject to further decisions, not least approval by the Secretary of State for Transport.

It is the new navigation system which has meant that flights take off in a similar pattern as before, but follow a much narrower air corridor over Redhill and Earlswood which has reduced the area over which people are overflown, but concentrated the amount of noise that a smaller number of residents who remain on the narrower flight path have to suffer. However, it appears that ascending aircraft are being held low by the National Air Traffic Services over Redhill, so that they don't fly near to aircraft stacking prior to landing at Heathrow, but are tracking north closer to Redhill than before. However, as the Future Airspace Strategy progresses, aircraft associated with Heathrow may be held in a different area, (part of the wider de-confliction associated with the complete overhaul of European airspace management), allowing Gatwick-associated aircraft to climb faster and therefore higher before they cross into our more densely populated Borough. But this process will not take place in the next two years or so and will only be completed by 2019.

Gatwick's control tower only guides planes to an altitude of 4,000 ft, when NATS takes over, and planes reach this point before they cross into the Borough and over Redhill and Earlswood. Therefore, I intend to approach the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS and ask them to investigate whether planes can be held on the narrower path for longer, perhaps until they cross the M23, so that they don't diffuse over the wider community until they are at a much higher altitude, and away from the main local population centre. This addresses the 75% of flights when leaving Gatwick into the prevailing westerly wind and turning to fly to northern European destinations. I hope this may address the noise nuisance increase identified in the last few months.

Overall, although airspace patterns and aircraft technology might eventually mitigate or lessen noise disturbances for those under aircraft leaving Gatwick today, no one should be in any doubt that a second runway at Gatwick Airport, and potentially a trebling in air movements, could make this problem a lot worse. But for those under approach paths, including those living in Dormansland, Smallfield, Lingfield and Newchapel, the prospect of second runway is horrendous in noise nuisance terms. The rest of us would have to bear the burden of a massive increase in local housing to accommodate 122,000 new jobs generated, and all the associated infrastructure or the collapse of our existing local services under the strain.

Quite a good time to join the local action group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign- www.gacc.org.uk), I suggest!"