Harpenden continues fighting noisy planes

PRESSURE is mounting on Britain’s leading air navigation service provider to hold its promised public consultation on flight paths across Hertfordshire, as south Harpenden residents continue struggling to cope with excess noise from planes.

Local people are renewing efforts to force National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to discuss the issue after it suddenly did an about turn and dropped its planned public examination of changes to airspace north of London late last year.

NATS said it was postponing the discussion and blamed its change of heart on a national downturn in air traffic, as there was now “less urgency” to change flight paths. It will now incorporate proposed changes into a wider review of airspace over all of southern England.

But residents including Neil MacArthur, who has spearheaded a campaign against planes flying low over built-up Harpenden suburbs, are concerned that an alternative date has not yet been set for public discussion on possible airspace changes.

The Herts Advertiser revealed last August about noisy planes flying a mere 4,000 feet above homes to and from Luton Airport, prompting health and safety fears. Mr MacArthur launched campaign website www.HarpendenSky.com to highlight the problem and galvanise public support to stop low-flying planes.

He has already had some success with Luton Airport currently running a trial focusing on ensuring air traffic keeps to the centre line of the flight path over south Harpenden, to alleviate noise problems.

Mr MacArthur’s concern about the impact of air traffic on peoples’ quality of life is shared by MP for Hitchin and Harpenden Peter Lilley who confirmed he had received “an upsurge” in complaints last summer about aircraft.

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He has recently written to Luton Airport backing Mr MacArthur’s efforts to stop planes flying low over homes.

Mr Lilley said he would pursue NATS to “re-open consultation” should problems with noisy planes persist.

Meanwhile Harpenden town clerk John Bagshaw last week wrote to NATS, saying: “Some residents are extremely disappointed that the review will not be taking place for a number of years as they suffer from frequent overflying of their property from Luton Airport air traffic.”

He told NATS he hoped a “solution” would be delivered for Harpenden residents.

Teresa Heritage, Harpenden county councillor, said: “I would support NATS having another public consultation.”

Harpenden resident of about 50 years, Roger Evans, of West Common, said noise from low flying planes was “very intrusive,” particularly when walking his dog near Rothamsted Research. He said: “I don’t like it because it is noise and disturbance.”

A NATS spokesman said: “We are working on a wider scale project but we don’t have a date for when that is going to consultation. We are looking towards 2013/14, but that isn’t definite.”

He said the organisation, of which the government holds a 49 per cent share, was aware of Harpenden residents’ concerns, as they complained to Luton Airport and NATS “speaks regularly to the airport.”

Changes to the flight path would not be made without prior consultation as the air routes were “very complex” and alterations could have a “knock-on effect across the region,” he added.

Mr MacArthur said: “We are not against Luton Airport at all, but the management of air traffic which is disproportionately focused on south Harpenden. It’s nothing to do with ‘NIMBY-ism’.”