St Albans MP attends face-to-face meeting with Luton Airport bosses over plane noise

Anne Main

Anne Main - Credit: Archant

Concerned residents have met with St Albans MP Anne Main and senior management from Luton Airport following increased airplane noise complaints.

Luton Airport operations director Neil Thompson

Luton Airport operations director Neil Thompson - Credit: Archant

Anne said that the September 8 meeting was “constructive” as the various parties met at Marshalswick Lane to witness the effects of the noise from aircraft upon north St Albans.

It followed a recent residents’ meeting in Sandridge, and a public surgery at Park Hall in Harpenden on August 31, hosted by the airport.

Anne said: “Luton accepts that there has been an increase in complaints. Airports are becoming ever more busy, but Luton must balance this with the very real concerns of local residents, and the effect it is having on them.

“It is my understanding that options to reduce disturbance are being explored by Luton, and I await further details of these as they progress.

“In the meantime, I was pleased Luton was willing to meet with residents to address current issues and find a way to have a more effective communication.”

A steering group, chaired by district councillor Lyn Bolton, who attended last week’s meeting in Marshalswick Lane, has been set up to collate different residents’ concerns over increased noise and plane vectoring.

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Anne said: “It’s important local people have a champion and a contact point who can act as an effective conduit between the airport and residents.”

Neil Thompson, Luton Airport’s operations director, told the Herts Advertiser last Monday (12) that the formation of the steering group was a “good move”.

He added: “We are aware of the feedback. If we can make improvements with the air space, we will do so. We want to look at short, medium and long-term changes.”

One of those options would be to see whether Luton’s planes could fly at a higher altitude, but this possibility depends on how such a change would impact on other aircraft in the vicinity, for example from Heathrow.

Neil said: “We can’t just change flight routes, and any changes made to Luton’s routes will have a knock-on effect [but] we would like all the flights to be as high as possible.”

He confirmed that UK regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, would eventually review flight path changes introduced last year, which have attracted the recent increase in noise complaints. However, as not all airline operators have been able to follow a narrower corridor, after the airport started using area navigation (RNAV1) technology, the authority’s annual review was currently on hold.

Neil said that all operators “should be on board [to use the navigation system] by the end of the year”.

But Peter Crowder, of Lancaster Road, St Albans, has dismissed Anne’s and Neil’s comments to the Herts Advertiser as ‘spin’, saying the meeting “was neither constructive nor at all friendly for that matter”.

He added: “I was at that meeting [as] I was actually the person who called for it.”

Peter said that flight path changes brought in by Luton Airport have caused stress for his family over the past 12 months “due to massively increased noise pollution and the constant extremely loud jet engine noise roar and overflying.

“Another resident who lives at Lancaster Road, and is also very badly affected, was also present [at the meeting]. I am not sure the meeting was that constructive. I attempted to ask Luton some questions, but we were left none the wiser if anything was going to be done about our serious problems, or even if they particularly cared.

“I certainly didn’t feel like they were making any effort to solve our problem. I felt that they were extremely defensive, and off-hand.”

Among the 100 people attending the airport’s public surgery in Harpenden was David Scott, of Pondfield Crescent, St Albans.

He said: “I moved here in 1975, and the plane noise has become intolerable. I spoke to Neil at the meeting in Harpenden, and he claimed it was ‘people’s perception’ that there were planes flying overhead. I told him, ‘No, I’m sorry, they are right overhead’.”

David said it was “dispiriting” to learn from Luton that a reduction in aircraft noise was not imminent.