Luton Airport faces angry residents in Redbourn

Flamstead villagers still suffering noise pollution from low-flying planes

LUTON Airport has asked airlines to alter their course over St Albans in an effort to appease Redbourn residents angry at being constantly disturbed by low-flying planes.

But residents in Flamstead have warned that the airport has yet to deliver on a similar pledge made several weeks ago to stop planes flying over their homes.

More than 200 people attended a meeting on Monday where disgruntled villagers aired grievances over noise pollution attended by Luton Airport representatives. It follows thousands of complaints about a sudden increase in planes flying directly over Redbourn.

Problems with plane noise appear to have coincided with a six-month trial by easyJet to fly closer to the centre of a flight path, initiated after Harpenden residents launched a campaign about noisy planes. That trial ends shortly.

Redbourn resident Rhona Grant, who has had ongoing discussions with Luton to return some peace to the village, said villagers were told that while the trial had shown that by slowing the aircraft down and turning earlier they could fly the centreline, it had significantly increased noise for local communities.

Unfortunately, too, other airlines have taken interest in easyJet’s trial and also attempted to remain within the 3km-wide route, named the Clacton/Dover/Detling flight path.

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They discovered that by flying more slowly and turning earlier they were also able to fly closer to the centreline, but that took them directly over Redbourn.

But as it is a published route, the airport cannot force pilots to fly elsewhere.

Rhona said residents were told that the noise problem was exacerbated by poor weather conditions due to low pressure over Europe, leading to more westerly departures from Luton.

The airport’s operations director, Neil Thompson, said he was to meet the airport’s carriers yesterday (October 5) to ask airlines to temporarily stop flying directly over Redbourn and Flamstead, and use an amended flight path of the trial instead.

While that could be done on a voluntary basis, using a different part of the published swathe, in the long-term the airport was pushing for permanent changes.

Neil maintained that having a historic flight path directly over Redbourn was no longer suitable as it was detrimental to residents.

Luton wants the flight path altered so it skirts around populated areas instead. Neil said the airport was preparing a bid to change that route and begin public consultation early next year.

But residents in Flamstead are still suffering sleepless nights as Luton’s promise to have quieter skies by the end of September was not met.

Vikki Orvice, a journalist, said: “Despite numerous pledges we are still awaiting any changes, the latest now being promised on October 20. In the meantime dozens of planes continue to cause disturbance on a daily – and nightly – basis to villagers. My patience for one is being sorely tested.”

Neil said that there had been a delay in telling airlines about changes to magnetic measurements from old technology near Luton, meaning planes were not flying where they should be.