Heathrow councils challenge night flights

Night flights

If the Government thought the end of the consultation marked the end of hostilities, then they're in for a shock. Bolstered by growing militancy across West London and the UK, local councils are upping the ante. With talk of a judicial review of the consultation being banded about like cheap tickets at a Ryanair sale, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead are taking on night flights.

The councils, backed by the Greater London Authority and a host of other West London boroughs, are seeking to challenge the government in the courts over the legality of the current night flight regime, which they say is noisier than allowed, and therefore illegal. It doesn't stop there though; according to Richmond council's leader, Serge Lourie, "This challenge is another important step along the road to our ultimate goal - a total ban on night flights."

Night flights are strictly limited - in theory - but in practice this leads to more and more airlines rushing to get in before the deadline, causing more noise in the process. With BAA under fire from all sides, and the DfT desperate to pretend it didn't collude with the Airports Authority over the consultation, pressure is growing on Ruth Kely to reign in the industry. Will she rise to the challenge? Doubtful, but perhaps the courts will do what Ministers are too afraid to do - just say no.

Does supporting expansion make you sick?

Mother Tabbinskins

Yesterday's papers carried the unsurprising news that living under a flight path can lead to increased stress and noise-related illness. But can supporting the third runway make you ill? We sent our roving reporter Dee Locke undercover at two governmental departments, to find out.

"I checked out the Department for Transport", says Dee, "and found that their staff were un-naturally ill. Staff at the DfT took an average of 12.4 sick days last year, compared to 9.1 for the Civil Service average. That's pretty high, leading us to suspect that the extra days could come from the stress of dealing with constant phone calls from angry residents and super-glue blockades of their offices."

Noise from third runway to blot out lessons for 100,000 school kids

Third Runway Schools

Could this be the latest excuse for not doing your homework? The Evening Standard has identified that if the third runway goes ahead, over 100,000 pupils will have their lessons interupted by the roar of jet engines.

Although schools closest to the runway will suffer from the loudest noise, schools in Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham will also have regular overhead flights, at up to one every minute-and-a-half. Hardly a peaceful learning environment.

The schools affected are all listed in the Standard article, and include Oratory Roman Catholic Primary School, the feeder school for London Oratory (as formerly attended by the children of one ex-PM, Tony Blair). Would the runway be getting such government support if they were still going there?

Is Defra trying to screw the DfT?

Defra Heathrow night

This morning Defra published a compilation of airport noise charts, showing the area around airports, and the various decibel bands.

Nothing odd about that, until you look closer. While the DfT tries to avoid showing an area greater than its preferred 57db limit (and rejected the recent ANASE report which found that people are disturbed at 50db), the Defra day chart goes down to 55db, and the night one to 50db.

Could those crafty civil servants at Defra be trying to undermine their transport colleagues determination to ignore the ANASE report's findings? Why else would they show a 50db limit if, as the DfT believes, people are only affected from 57db and above? Or is it just early and I'm being conspiracy minded? Answers on a postcard to: I don't like aircraft noise, c/o the DfT, 76 Great Marsham St, SW1P 4DR...

Noisy Heathrow in Concorde cover-up

What a surprise. The findings of long-awaited release of the ANASE report, exploring the noise from Heathrow airport, has been rejected by the Government as, apparently, it "does not give us the robust figures on which it would be safe to change policy".

The Government has said that expansion at Heathrow can only take place if it can be done without increaseing the number of people affected by aircraft noise. As more planes from more runways is pretty dammed likely to cause more noise, the DfT has started playing silly buggers with the measuring.

Minister hides Heathrow noise report

Jim Fitzpatrick's hidden report

Rising noise levels are causing massive discomfort to people living under Heathrow's flightpaths, according to a leaked report which Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has been sitting on.

The report, Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England (ANASE) was ordered six years ago but kept under wraps since the DfT saw a draft in July. In a damming blow for proponents of the third runway, it has challenged the current measure of noise-related discomfort (57decibels), arguing that "significant annoyance" occurs at 50db levels.