City noise ‘worse than Heathrow’

There can be few things more unsettling than being woken in the early hours by the sound of your house shaking, or being showered in bits of energy-efficient light bulb as it explodes over the dinner table, but these are precisely the kind of incidents that occur in towns such as Wythenshawe, Manchester, and Saffron Walden in Essex.

Rather than being haunted, or besieged by telekinetic villains, these two villages are under the spell of a rather more mundane evil – aircraft noise. Wythenshawe and Saffron Walden are ‘noise blighted’ communities, two of tens of examples across the UK, with many more likely to join their disgruntled ranks over the coming years.

The spotlight fell on towns and villages around London City Airport earlier this month, after a local pressure group, Fight the Flights, discovered that the Docklands hub produces more aircraft noise than Heathrow, up to 87 decibels in some cases, roughly equivalent to standing next to a petrol lawn mower.

Local newspaper, the Evening Standard, cited a recent change in flight paths over London, and a reduction in the number of propeller-driven aircraft flying from the hub, as the reason for the increased aircraft noise. Propeller planes, such as the Bombardier q400, are much quieter than jets.

However, the worst is yet to come for residents – London City has permission from Newham Council to expand its schedules by 50%, a plan that has angered Fight the Flights. The group, which claims to be ‘anti-expansion, not anti-aviation,’ is planning to take Newham Council to court, in a bid to have the scheduling boost halted.

Anne-Marie Griffiths, from Fight the Flights, was concerned, saying "it should not be forgotten that East London suffers a double whammy, of not only London City Airport flights, but also Heathrow flights overhead, adding to the misery." The two hubs lie on roughly the same latitude, on either side of London.

Fortunately, at least for residents living in the noise-blight zone, the morning of Tuesday November 16 was a quiet one in the Docklands area of London. Flights into and out of City were subject to “indefinite delays,” after dense fog reduced visibility to just 100m. The incident is the second of its kind at City in just over a month.

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