New St Albans campaign group takes a stand against aircraft noise

STAND (St Albans Aircraft Noise Defence) logo. Picture: STAND

STAND (St Albans Aircraft Noise Defence) logo. Picture: STAND - Credit: Archant

A new campaign group has formed to help St Albans residents have their say about the impact of noise pollution from Luton and Heathrow airports.

STAND, or St Albans Aircraft Noise Defence, held its first meeting in Branch Road on Sunday, December 9, with more than 50 people attending. Attendees included members of the public, local councillors and representatives from other anti-noise campaign groups.

The campaigners aim to form a strong group of over 1,000 people, raise the profile of the issue with local and national politicians, ensure residents know how to register complaints and to participate in aircraft route consultations.

St Albans resident Evan Todd, who chaired the meeting, said: “We are starting up the awareness group to make the citizens of St Albans and surrounding areas aware of what can be done to complain about the air traffic noise.

“Obviously there are other groups in existence but we felt there needed to be one that was focused locally.”

People heard about the meeting via word of mouth and through flyers which were distributed to people living in the area.

Evan said: “It’s specifically for the flights that are flying over from Luton and Heathrow. There have been changes in the last few years in terms of the flight routes and there’s been much more noise.

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“I’ve lived here a number of years and in the beginning I don’t remember there being nearly the same number of flights. I think the fact is there are more and more flights and more and more of them flying close to St Albans and people are really noticing it.

“There’s been a lot of people in the immediate area that have been really impacted by it.”

Many campaign groups, including LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), believe that noise pollution has got worse since the introduction of the RNAV navigation system in 2015, which narrowed the flight paths and concentrated the noise over a narrower area.

“St Albans needs to stop being Mr Nice Guy and start complaining about flights, otherwise we’ll get dumped on,” Evan said. “That’s clearly what’s happened.

“There are things coming down the pipe that will make it worse if we don’t let our voices be heard. That’s why we called the group ‘Stand’.

“A lot of people really didn’t know that you can complain, didn’t know how to complain and didn’t know whether making a complaint would actually do anything.

“It’s really complicated with all the different elements. We’re working together with other groups to understand what needs to be done and what the short and long-term plan is, and just adding more voices.”

Luton Airport is currently preparing for its busiest-ever Christmas period, after reaching record passenger numbers in November. More than 1.1 million passengers travelled through the airport, an 11.5 per cent increase on November 2017.

Flight operations manager James Dontas said: “Noise is an unavoidable part of an airport’s operations but we are committed to working with the local community to strike the right balance between the benefits and the impact.

“We are also making the strongest possible representations to Government for a UK-wide airspace modernisation programme, which will increase capacity in the air while reducing the number of people overflown.

“London Luton Airport already has some of the most stringent noise control measures of any major UK airport, including a ban on the noisiest types of aircraft and night flying restrictions that limit the number of flights and prohibit certain types of aircraft from using the airport.”

While anti-noise campaign groups believe that the introduction of RNAV worsened the problem, the new route aims to steer aircraft away from densely populated areas like Redbourn, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

The airport is currently consulting on an airspace change to help lessen the impact of noise, but is faced with challenges due to the current airspace structure over the south of the UK. New measures have also been introduced to delay the deployment of landing gear, reducing the noise caused by the drag of planes slowing for landing, which has caused a reduction in noise over communities in Stevenage, Whipsnade and Dagnall.