Saturday, 21 July 2018

Councillors demand action over noisy helicopter flights

COUNCILLORS in Mapledurham want to stop noisy helicopter flights over the village.

COUNCILLORS in Mapledurham want to stop noisy helicopter flights over the village.

The Mapledurham Estate operates the pleasure flights at weekends but villagers and residents of Purley on the other side of the Thames have complained about being disturbed.

Councillors believe the estate is in breach of planning conditions set by Oxfordshire County Council when the land used for take-offs and landings was bought in 1970.

The conditions state that there should be “no detriment to the amenity of any dwellings in the locality caused by reason of noise, vibrations, smell, fumes, smoke, ash, dust or grit”.

There should also be no activities “which interfere unreasonably” with residents enjoying their properties.

Tim Whitaker, vice- chairman of Mapledurham Parish Council, who lives 400ft from the country park, said he couldn’t hold a conversation due to the noise created by 70 take-offs and landings on the first day of the flights last month.

Last year, the flight days took place on Saturdays and Sundays but this year they have been restricted to 10 Saturdays following protests by residents. Two have since been cancelled but there are seven more days scheduled, starting next month.

Mr Whitaker, 76, claimed the operation breached the planning conditions due to not only the noise but also the vibrations, fumes, smoke and dust created by the helicopters. The council and neighbouring Purley Parish Council are to write to South Oxfordshire District Council asking it to enforce the planning conditions.

Mr Whitaker, who was a commercial airline pilot for 28 years, said: “I will be asking the district council whether these conditions apply and, if they do, then I expect it to enforce them. As far as I understand, that means stopping this operation entirely.

“If not, then we have to move on to some other approach. There’s been a huge volume of complaints and we have to try to do something.”

Mr Whitaker, who has lived in Mapledurham since 1965, said the land had been used for a number of events in the past, including fairs, vehicle exhibitions and one-day flights.

“We’ve had to deal with all sorts of activities on this site for years but this helicopter business is another matter,” he said. “We want the operation to cease because it has upset a lot of people who live next to the site.”

Estate manager Robert Wytchard said he had not only halved the number of flights but also asked for quieter helicopters to be used.

He said: “We’ve received two or three letters of complaint but I don’t think everyone is against it. We listened to what people said and that’s why there are no flights on a Sunday.”

The pleasure flights, which are run by operator Adventure 001 carry up to five passengers in a Bell Jet Ranger 206 and take off every six minutes between 10am and 5pm. A share of the proceeds from the flights goes to the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust.

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