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Villagers angry as helicopter flights resume
Published 07/05/13

A ROW over noise caused by helicopter tours has been reignited.

The Mapledurham Estate is operating pleasure flights over the River Thames but villagers have complained about the disturbance.

The first flight of the year was held on April 20 and residents said they couldn’t even hold a conversation because of the incessant noise created by 70 take-offs and landings during the day.

Tim Whitaker, 76, who lives 400ft from the launch site, said the flight path was directly above his home.

“I’m bearing a huge amount of noise that I don’t accept as being reasonable,” he said. “The noise is huge and envelopes the entire village. It’s hellish when the helicopter takes off and lands every five minutes. You can’t hear yourself think and have to stop your conversation because there’s a chopper flying loudly over your house.”

Last year, a petition demanding that the flights were stopped was signed by more than 60 people. Then there were 13 flight days, all on Saturdays and Sundays, which also attracted complaints from residents of Goring and Whitchurch.

The estate agreed to reduce the flight days to Fridays and Saturdays and 10 were planned between February and November. Two dates have been cancelled due to poor weather but there are seven more planned, starting in June.

The pleasure flights, which are run by operator Adventure 001 from a field by the Thames, carry up to five passengers in a Bell Jet Ranger 206 and take off every six minutes between 10am and 5pm.

Adventure 001 gives a share of the proceeds from the flights to the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust.

Mr Whitaker, who is vice-chairman of Mapledurham Parish Council, said there had been one-off flight days in previous years but the intensity of the latest operation was “unacceptable”.

“Whereas it might have been once a year we have now got 70 flights a day for 10 Saturdays a year,” he said. “For those days you can’t enjoy your property at all. If you wanted to sleep through the day you wouldn’t be able to because you can hear it even through double-glazed windows.

“We can’t allow this to become established because in no time at all you’re going to have a heliport here. If we accept it, it will be established that it’s okay to do this 10 times a year.” Mr Whitaker, who has lived in Mapledurham since 1965, said the estate bought the land from the St Margaret’s Church in the Sixties on condition that the field was only used during the estate opening hours. It is only open between 2pm and 5.30pm at the weekend between March and September.

Mr Whitaker, who himself used to pilot helicopter tours and was a commercial airline pilot for 28 years, believes the Civil Aviation Authority regulations stated helicopters taking off regularly from one site should be at least 600 metres away from the nearest habitation.

Estate manager Robert Wytchard said he had halved the number of flights that was due to take place and had requested 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 none on a Sunday.” Mr Wytchard said the estate didn’t have control over flight paths but they had been varied.

He added: “Apart from what we’ve changed, I don’t see what else we could do. At the end of the year we will review it like we did at the end of last year. The public is our business and we don’t want to do things that stop people coming to Mapledurham.”

Published 07/05/13

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