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Bonkers Blog September 2019

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4 September (Part 1) - London City Airport is growing. Noise can only get worse

In another example of Bexley Council’s neglect of their northern territories they have taken no known interest in London City Airport’s long term forecast which predicts a near doubling of the number of flights.

London CityNot once has their delegate attended a Airport Consultative Committee and unlike all the other nearby boroughs they have not brought the current Consultation to Bexley. I was told why Bexley’s delegate had not attended any Committee meeting, he missed a meeting due to a date clash after which he was never invited again. It’s a reasonably good excuse but the fact remains that Bexley has been left without a voice while City Airport gears up for expansion.

Bexley Labour’s Transport Spokesman Stefano Borella and his Belvedere and Thamesmead East colleagues decided that standing idly by while the Conservatives did nothing about the Consultation was not an option. Last night there was a public meeting in Belvedere with a representative from the airport and their noise consultant.

It should be stated at the outset that there are at present no airport plans as such, at this stage it is more of a crystal ball exercise looking at the next 15 years and until the middle of October anyone is free to tell the airport authorities how they feel about it.

London City Airport is a big employer (2,200 jobs) doing a vital job for the economy although its five million a year passengers is a drop in the ocean compared to London’s three big airports; just 4% of the total.

However their studies suggest a 42% growth in passenger numbers by 2025 and eleven million ten years later without extending the operating times. That’s twice as many passengers as today and with aircraft not likely to get any bigger it must mean twice as many flights. The new taxi-way being constructed right now will free up runway capacity to allow the increase.

Future aircraft are expected to be as much as 6dB quieter on take off which is a big reduction but only about 2dB quieter on landing which is barely perceptible. Residents living on the flight path are understandably concerned and the most usual wind direction means they will not benefit from the 6dB reduction.

A small number were quite vocal about it last night and I began to think I should get my ears tested again. One visitor had come from Stockwell because of the perceived noise problem down there but when I have been sitting at the nearby Oval watching Surrey lose cricket matches I see the planes immediately overhead heading for London City. I never seem to hear them.

Perhaps I have learned to tune out aircraft noise. I live almost as close to the airport as it is possible to be whilst remaining within the Belvedere ward. I see the aircraft from home but I am not very aware of any noise.

I stood in my front garden this morning looking and listening and I agree I could hear them but not louder than the buses 150 yards away on Abbey Road and nothing like as loud as a passing train. However someone at the meeting whose comment suggested a nearby address said that when an aircraft takes off in an easterly direction and turns to the north he is subjected to the full force of of its engines. Either my hearing is seriously kaput (and SpecSavers says it isn’t) or I feel there must be an element of exaggeration or intolerance going on.

Perhaps I should declare an interest or maybe it’s a bias. From 1949 until 1984 I lived less than a mile from the runway at Farnborough when it was the centre of British Aviation.

ConcordeIf you have not been blown to the ground by a Vulcan bomber as it switches its Olympus engine to reheat at low level or you have gone through life and managed to avoid having the hairs on your arm singed by a Naval Buccaneer bomber (†) you don’t really know what aircraft noise is.

The underside of Concorde pictured here was taken from my back garden long before I owned a telephoto lens and what you see has not been cropped.

The difference from me in Farnborough and Thamesmead residents is that Concordes and Vulcans flying over were relatively rare events.

No one flies pure jet engines commercially any more (Concorde was the last) and quieter bypass engines have become the norm. (Name dropping; the leading ‘inventor’ was a personal friend until he died four years ago.)

So as you can see I am not a good judge of what constitutes unacceptable aircraft noise but I do know that on the rare occasions I take a trip to Thamesmead’s shopping centre I am surprised at just how low the aircraft appear to be but I have never been particularly aware of the noise.

When you have been under a slow moving Harrier jump jet you just accept that aircraft are noisy. I also accept that it can’t be any fun living under the flight path and many of the houses there pre-date the opening of London City and the promise never to fly jet aircraft from it.

Labour’s Press Release on the subject is here and perhaps more importantly anyone with more sensitive ears than mine should make sure their opinion is heard via the Consultation process.

† As a teenager with a group of friends I climbed the airfield perimeter fence and got a little too close to the runway.


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