Thursday, 24 June 2021

Aircraft noise must be cut, says MP

JOHN HOWELL has called for a “significant reduction” in noise from aircraft over the Henley area.

JOHN HOWELL has called for a “significant reduction” in noise from aircraft over the Henley area.

The Henley MP was speaking after a meeting between a group of MPs from Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Surrey with representatives from Heathrow Airport and NATS, which is responsible for air traffic control.

Mr Howell said it had to be acknowledged that there had been an increase in the amount of air traffic.

He had received complaints from constituents about increased noise from aircraft coming into land at Heathrow, particularly when there was an easterly wind which meant the planes circled over Henley.

Martin Rolfe, chief executive of NATS, accepted that increased aircraft noise was a problem for some people and agreed to investigate individual issues of serious disturbance if they were reported to him by the MPs.

He said there had been no changes to routes but that the flight patterns within controlled airspace changed almost daily.

Apart from wind direction, there were many reasons why flights paths varied, including weather, industrial action overseas and pressure on airspace.

Mr Rolfe said a review of airspace across the South-East was being carried out and would include asking pilots to fly aircraft higher more quickly and to move to holding points higher and further out.

The review would take several years and would include public consultation.

Airlines were being incentivized to invest in quieter planes. More noisy planes at Heathrow paid higher landing charges.

The meeting heard that the aviation industry was working on new technologies to help reduce noise but updating fleets took years due to the cost and lead times.

Heathrow already imposes higher landing charges on noisier planes as an incentive with the result that airlines tend to use their quieter planes going to and from the airport.

The proposed runway extension at Heathrow would allow planes to start their descent to the airport later.

Flights landing more punctually also help to reduce noise as holding patterns are not needed and planes don’t need to circle.

Mr Howell said: “NATS gave a good explanation but what we really want to see is a return to the former situation or, better still, a significant reduction in noise over the Henley constituency.

“Of course the aircraft passing over the constituency are not only going to and from Heathrow. A complex web of many flights passes over the area every day.

“In order to get a better understanding of this and the issues around it, I will be visiting the air traffic control tower in the near future.

“This is an important issue and one which we will need to watch as we seek to balance environmental concerns with the increasing demand for travel.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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