4 September 2018
This summer has certainly been one to remember, not least for the extraordinary heatwave in July, in which I had the windows wide open and tried to spend as much time in my garden as possible.
But sadly, when I did get time to enjoy time outside the noise of aircraft was too often overwhelming. I’ve spent many columns addressing this issue, but over the past couple of months it has felt like it’s been noisier than it has for a long time. A couple of weeks ago I asked for the data to back up my suspicions and was surprised at what I saw.
Despite the good intentions of the arrivals review, and the progress towards greater dispersal in the past couple of years, there was a greater concentration over our village this summer than there was last year. With only minimal progress so far this was deeply disappointing. It went against everything we have worked for.
I met with the Chief Executive of Gatwick, Stewart Wingate, to ask why. He accepted that there was greater concentration of planes, but said much of this is down to how NATS guide aircraft in. I’m pursuing this with them because I don’t accept that this increase was only a blip as they suggest.
Of course, we’ll have to wait until next summer to find out if this is the reversal of a trend or just the blip Gatwick think it is. But in the mean time I’ll continue to fight for better solutions. In January, the next bigger change will happen with the start of the Reduced Night Noise Trial. It will only last for 6 months and involves approximately 8 aircraft a night taking newer flightpaths. It will be interesting to see if this works for the better, or worse, and helps preserve some of our tranquillity.
11 July 2018
July and August are the busiest months for flying, with more aircraft in the sky and right over Tonbridge, Edenbridge and surrounding villages. What makes it worse, the recent warm weather means many of us are keeping our windows and doors open more and are so much more aware of the noise.
So it was a useful day to meet the Aviation Minister, Gatwick Airport’s Chief Executive and representatives from NATS and the Noise Management Board to discuss what more can be done. As many of you know I’ve been keen for action for a long time now. They presented detail on what they see as the issues but in reality not much has changed.
A couple of years ago the Noise Management Board was set up. Community Groups, including our own Gatwick Obviously Not and the High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group have a seat on it. However there is very little evidence of what it has actually done so far and what contributions it has made to ensuring we have quieter skies. No wonder the Community Noise Groups have lost confidence in it.
I was clear about this today and it was echoed by other MPs. There has been a feeling for too long that the aviation industry is unaccountable and I hope the Department for Transport will lead from the front in making Government policy work for those affected by noise. While there is no doubt that Gatwick Airport is a significant asset to the country, it needs to be a good neighbour if it wants to grow even more.
25 June 2018
MPs have approved a new runway at Heathrow. I was one of the MPs to vote for it,but sadly I wasn’t called by the Speaker to participate in the debate.
I was planning on raising two important consequences of expansion that would impact us locally. First, an additional runway means more flights, so the flight paths that aircraft take has to change too. That’s why I’d like to see the Land Compensation Act 1973 amended so that residents who are now overflown, and will be in the future, can receive compensation for the motorway that may be constructed above them in the sky.
And the second point that I would have raised is that, as we have seen so often over the past few years, there is no recognition of the needs of communities in the aviation industry. I want to see the responsibilities of NATS and the CAA re-evaluated so they have to take into account local communities. The government's policy is, after all, to treat noise as importantly as growth. It’s about time the industry started taking noise seriously, as even in Kent, we could be impacted from the additional flights over us heading for the third runway at Heathrow.
18 April 2018
I met with Baroness Sugg, the Aviation Minister, to discuss what more the Department for Transport could do to properly regulate aircraft noise from aircraft approaching Gatwick Airport. It’s crucial that the government leads by example in ensuring that communities affected by noise are properly represented and that Gatwick Airport understands its role in reducing and mitigating noise in line with Government policy. I made this point when I met their new Chairman earlier this year and will continue to push for quieter skies.
18 January 2018
Today I met with Sir David Higgins, the Chair of Gatwick Airport. I reiterated to him the significant impact that flights from Gatwick Airport continually have on local residents of Tonbridge and Malling. Sir David was sympathetic to what I said, and I hope I will continue to work with him to improve the flight paths above our homes, as soon as possible.
10 January 2018
I was delighted to lead a debate in Parliament this afternoon on noise reduction from aircraft approaching Gatwick airport. As you can see from the clip below, this is an issue which is important to many people in our area. If you'd like to view my whole speech, follow the link here.
04 November 2017
Although we are now entering the winter season, where the impact of aircraft noise is less severe, some of us have still had to endure a noisy summer. That's why I met the Chief Executive of Gatwick Airport, Stewart Wingate, and Chief Executive of National Air Traffic Services, Martin Rolfe to discuss what more can be done.
It was important that Stewart and Martin understood that while the 2016 changes resulted in some greater dispersal, many residents, including me, remained significantly affected by noise issues. We discussed at length some of the solutions which can help. This can be to better train individual air traffic controllers so they know how the plane should approach the runway, to allowing more aircraft in the hold.
This does require co-operation with other airports. To give you an example, at the moment on Sunday mornings it is quieter. This is because London City Airport is closed so there is more airspace. That's why I'm pleased that NATS are producing an outline plan of airspace across the country to look at ways to better manage it. It is a long process and they have committed to working with us and sharing their findings as soon as the information is collected.
However, there is still more to do and I've asked the Department for Transport to help. Neighbouring MP's have joined me in writing to ask the Transport Secretary to put further pressure on Gatwick to comply with the requirements of the Aviation Policy Framework, which means doing more to mitigate noise locally. The government has also announced the creation of a new independent noise body, which means communities can have a say on airspace changes. The Transport Secretary will also be able to call in airspace changes of national significance, which I would argue would have prevented the radical change we received a few years ago.
So, in all there is a lot going on. The Noise Management Board must also now start delivering real change as proposed by our county council and community groups, and I made this clear to Bo Redeborn when we last met.
18 September 2017
I’m sure I’m not the only person who lives in a village near Tonbridge and is relieved summer is coming to an end. This means that we are approaching the time of year when our skies become a bit quieter, and the effect of aircraft noise on our communities becomes slightly less intense.
Despite last summer’s much heralded arrivals review, noise this summer has still been bad. Earlier this month I met in Parliament with the Arrivals Reviews authors Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake to discuss what could be done. Bo and Graham shared with me this document explaining the situation as they see it.
There are plenty of graphs and technical details, so please let me know if you’re struggling to understand please e-mail me and I can talk through some of the figures. There are also some details which are disputed. For example, the distribution of the swathe is still narrower now that it was before 2013.
In a couple of weeks, I’m also meeting with the Chief Executives of Gatwick Airport and National Air Traffic Services to look further into what can be done. Graphs may look nice, but it is what we hear and the impact on our day to day lives which is most important for me.
Please find the Noise Management Board update here.