Campaigners in St Albans unite with Hertfordshire groups over increased Luton Airport plane noise

PUBLISHED: 08:41 07 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:41 07 November 2016

A plane taking off from Luton airport passes over Stevenage.

A plane taking off from Luton airport passes over Stevenage.

Danny Loo Photography 2016

Luton Airport has been put on notice that local campaign groups are banding together to fight the growing blight of plane noise.

Residents in St Albans, Harpenden, and nearby Welwyn, Hatfield and Stevenage have been up in arms over a spike in noise from Luton, following changes to the flight path, coupled with a huge increase in flights.

Herts-based campaign groups HALE, Save Our Skies (St Albans) and HarpendenSky.com are collaborating to fight against the impact, with members concerned about the concentration of planes flying over urban areas in this county.

While the likes of St Albans district, Stevenage, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City have been affected by the blight of plane noise, flight movement maps show that most of Luton Airport’s neighbours in Bedfordshire suffer little by comparison.

In September last year, in a bid to better control aircraft and prevent them from straying from centrelines, the Luton borough council-owned airport introduced a system called “RNAV”.

That was to help planes leaving Luton to the west stay on a modified flight path route, between Markyate and Flamstead, Redbourn and Hemel Hempstead and St Albans and Harpenden.

According to the airport’s publicity before the introduction of the flight path tweaks, and the RNAV system, such changes were supposed to reduce noise disturbance.

But, spokespeople for the three campaign groups assert that communities affected by the din are “too close together to solve the problem simply by flying aircraft down the middle” of residential areas.

Nigel Emms said: “RNAV is a GPS-based navigation technology which more tightly controls aircraft track-keeping, resulting in a concentration of noise rather than a more random dispersal.

“Guidance by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) makes it clear that to reduce noise significantly means moving flight tracks away from affected communities by larger distances that are available between the towns and villages of Hertfordshire.

“Hence a more radical re-think is required.”

The HALE member explained: “Aircraft noise travels sideways as well as downwards, and with a 50 per cent increase in flights in just two years on the route which passes between Redbourn and Harpenden to the north, and Hemel and St Albans to the south, a concentrated ‘wall of noise’ leaves nobody satisfied.”

He said that campaigners had banded together to engage with the CAA and the airport operators to reduce noise.

Sabra Swinson, of Save Our Skies, said: “We want a Herts-wide approach, as it is a problem affecting people all over the county, from Stevenage to St Albans. The airport is expanding at such a great rate that we are going to be even more affected.”

Neil MacArthur from HarpendenSky.com called for Luton’s expansion – controversially approved by its borough council owner – to be halted until airspace operational issues are sorted out.

He said that Luton Airport’s chief executive officer Nick Barton had so far “shown disregard for the significant increase in Luton air traffic noise affecting residents”.

Neil described the RNAV consultation process before changes were introduced as a ‘complete failure’ as “thousands of Hertfordshire residents were completely unaware of the noise they were about to experience”.

To lodge a noise complaint:

• Email noise@ltn.aero

• Phone 01582 395382

• Or fill out a form via www.london-luton.co.uk/corporate/community/noise/talking-to-lla/making-a-noise-complaint

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