One thing is for certain: Britain needs more aviation capacity to remain an open, globally-focused trading nation. But the decision on expansion needs to take into account a range of issues, including the environment, local communities, feasibility and the needs of Britain’s aviation market.
The argument over noise is often dismissed as small-minded nimbyism. But airplane noise isn’t just a matter of irritation, it is linked to significant productivity losses and health complications such as hypertension, hearing loss, insomnia, mental health challenges and cognitive impairment. We must take this seriously.
And the fact is Heathrow is simply in the wrong place. All airports cause disruption, but it’s important to minimise this disruption as far as possible. When compared to other airports in the UK, and in Europe, nowhere else comes close to Heathrow’s noise.
So here are some facts:
1. Heathrow causes more than double the amount of noise of all the other airports in the UK combined.
2. Heathrow noise affects 70 times more people than Gatwick.
3. Heathrow already causes almost four times as much noise as any other airport in Europe.
4. At higher noise levels, Heathrow affects more than ten times more people than any other airport in Europe.
It’s clear that Heathrow is exposing its local residents to unacceptable levels of noise. We should be talking about how to reduce noise at Heathrow, not expose a further 370,000 people to its already absurd levels.
People who like me live under the Heathrow flight paths already accept that noise from Heathrow, while unpleasant, is simply a part of life. But let’s not worsen this already considerable problem by inflicting intolerable plane noise on hundreds of thousands more people.
If expansion is a straight choice between Heathrow and Gatwick, it’s a no-brainer.
Notes to Editors:
1. The Airports Commission noise report shows its most recent data on noise at UK airports. The relevant information can be found here (pp. 8, 9): https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223764/airports-commission-noise.pdf
2. The European Environment Agency collects noise data on most major European airports. Its most recent data can be downloaded here: http://forum.eionet.europa.eu/etc-sia-consortium/library/noise_database/end_df4_8_results_2012.xl