St Albans villagers challenge Luton Airport

Flamstead journalist claims London Luton is “fobbing off” residents

LUTON Airport has been accused of treating St Albans villagers with disdain over complaints about a significant increase in noise from low-flying planes.

A campaign to challenge recent changes in the direction and number of aircraft flying over Redbourn, Flamstead and elsewhere in the St Albans district is gathering pace as fed-up residents demand answers from Luton.

Nigel Emms, a brand and communication director of Friendless Lane in Flamstead, said that after living in the village for 18 years, close to the airport, he was used to a certain level of plane noise. But a dramatic increase in planes banking over the village during the past two months had become “intolerable”.

Nigel said: “There is now a feeling amongst significant members of the community that the issue of aircraft noise cannot go unchallenged as it is becoming a blight on our everyday lives with aircraft starting to take off from 6am every three minutes at peak departure times.”

He has written to the airport’s managing director to stress that residents are concerned about planes flying close to or directly over their homes. Nigel said it was unacceptable and intrusive, particularly when some villagers suffered from serious illnesses and rest was vital to them.

Flamstead residents, journalist Vikki Orvice and her husband Ian Ridley, chairman of St Albans City Football Club, said villagers’ complaints were being ignored by Luton.

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Vikki said that on a recent Tuesday she counted more than 20 planes every few minutes starting from 6.03am, with some aircraft banking steeply on the edge of the village.

She added: “Villagers are being fobbed off or treated with disdain. Because it is in the air you can’t do anything about it. If it was your neighbour you could phone the police.”

Charles Ellis, a publicity and information officer of Althorp Road, St Albans, said he had written to St Albans MP Anne Main as he, too, had noticed a marked increase in the past two months.

He added: “Unfortunately, not only are there far more aircraft but they are flying much lower, which means the noise is far more intrusive.” He wants to know why there has been a sudden increase.

Chris Murphy, of Hatching Green Close, Harpenden, has also written to Luton demanding answers.

He said that it was not just the villages of Redbourn and Flamstead that were affected but also significant parts of built-up areas of Harpenden.

A spokeswoman for Luton said that the airport had sent a mobile monitoring unit out to locations in St Albans to measure noise levels.

She explained that it was likely people in the district were more aware of aircraft because of a combination of the airport’s summer flight programme and a change of weather conditions.

Also, because of changes to aircraft design and technology, the operation and handling of planes had changed and the turns they were able to make at take off speeds were wider than they had been in previous years.

She said the airport was conducting a trial with the independent London Luton Airport Consultative Committee to see if encouraging aircraft to maintain a central line and avoid overflying the most densely populated areas would lessen the impact of aircraft noise on local communities.

The spokeswoman added: “We have been conducting this trial in conjunction with easyJet. We are currently three months into the six month trial.”

She said the airport had not altered the number of aircraft on the westerly departures route towards Redbourn and Flamstead, nor had it changed the altitude as all planes taking off had to adhere to certain height limits.

The spokeswoman added: “We welcome the feedback. Each contact is logged and investigated individually and it can take time to do that.”