Redbourn suffering from low-flying Luton Airport planes

Luton airport slammed for allowing planes to fly low over Redbourn

Luton airport may be on cloud nine after recent figures revealed it was the fastest growing major terminal in the London area, but some St Albans residents have complained they are suffering from a sudden upsurge in plane noise.

Redbourn and Flamstead villagers suspect the spike is linked to a successful campaign to have Luton start a six-month trial to keep easyJet pilots on the centreline of a flight path when departing the airport, following complaints that noisy planes were flying too low over built-up south Harpenden.

Rhona Grant, of Redbourn, said she had not appreciated the possible implications of the trial, where pilots keep to the middle of the Clacton/Dover/Detling flight route, until she recently became aware of the sharp rise in aircraft noise directly above her house.

Rhona said: “While it is a victory for Harpenden, it is having a catastrophic affect on the lives of people in Redbourn.”

Hitchen and Harpenden MP, Peter Lilley, and Redbourn district councillor, Maxine Crawley, have both offered support to Rhona, who has written to the airport to say that she has never experienced such noise from planes during 27 years living in Redbourn.

She explained: “A significant number of planes now fly at a much lower altitude than previously and bank to the east directly over my house, sometimes with only a few minutes between each take off. It really is becoming intolerable, some days the noise can be deafening, drowning out ordinary conversation and it can make spending any time in the garden a miserable experience.”

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Her concern is shared by Ted Alford, of Flamstead, who said: “There are a number of people already very angry about the increase in noise.”

Ted said: “Flight paths at Luton airport are out-of-date and radical change is needed to facilitate modern navigation incorporating a more equitable spread of aircraft noise and perhaps alternating departure routes. Tinkering with flight paths is not the way forward.”

Peter Mannell, of Harpenden, has told Herts Ad that he is concerned about Luton sending fuel-laden jets “dangerously low” over built-up areas. He said officials appeared to be turning a, “blind eye to what is a potentially dangerous situation”.

A Luton spokeswoman has responded to Rhona’s noise complaints, apologising for, “any inconvenience as a result of Luton aircraft operations”.

She verified that during May, June and July winds favoured predominantly westerly operations, and as a result Redbourn would have been impacted to a greater degree by Luton departures following the Clacton/Dover/Detling flight route, typically at altitudes of between 4,000 and 5,000 feet.

The spokeswoman added that the trial being carried out by easyJet, to help tighten track-keeping, should avoid the direct overflight of Hemel Hempstead, Redbourn and St Albans.

However, she went on: “We are still in the early stages of the trial but we are working closely with easyJet to find the best solution for all the most densely populated areas south of the airfield.”

Luton is the fastest growing major airport in the London area, second only to Heathrow for business travel. Recently released official figures show that for the first six months of 2011 passenger numbers increased by 11.3 per cent. Luton carried almost nine million passengers in 2010.