This page displays some old items removed from the main pages
CAA DECISION REVERSED
As a result of a Judicial Review challenge to the CAA by our fellow Community Noise Group Plane Justice, the CAA's recent decision to give permanent approval to changes to Westerly departure Route 4 will be quashed by the High Court. While TWAANG does not have a direct interest in this outcome we think it very important as it demonstrates that the CAA and Gatwick have not learnt lessons.
The Westerly approach changes made in 2013, which caused such a furore and led to GON’s own legal challenge, was acknowledged to have been a PR disaster for Gatwick. It led to the formation of the Noise Management Board, but the damage done to the level of trust between communities and the Aviation authorities in general, and Gatwick in particular, are a long way from being repaired. This latest incident is not going to help. We are extremely grateful to Plane Justice for exposing the continuing problem.
You can read or download their Press Release here:
The Casper Flight Tracking system is now available on Tablets and Phones.
Complaints may be made by phone in the future.
TWAANG joins the Tunbridge Wells Town Forum
We are pleased to announce that TWAANG has been voted in as a Member of the TW Town Forum, to join others who contribute to the work of supporting the town. We look forward to playing our part.
As many will know, Tunbridge Wells does not have a Parish Council and the Town Forum was formed to fill this gap. Its membership includes a wide range of individuals and organisations including Borough Councillors, Residents’ Associations and other parties with an interest in the Town’s wellbeing and development.
Become a Supporter and help make our voice even louder and more effective. Click HERE to find out how to do this. And please don't forget to encourage your friends, too.
NIGHT FLIGHT CONSULTATION The Government has issued a Consultation paper about the night flight regimes for Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted Airports for the five years from October. This is clearly of great concern to us all. The Consultation period ends on Tuesday 28 February, so time is short.
All Gatwick’s NMB Community Groups agree that the Consultation process is seriously flawed and unsatisfactory, and a Web site has been set up by GON on our behalf to explain the problems and coordinate the response from us all as simply as possible. Please support the response. To visit the new Web site click HERE or go to: www.noflybynight.com
Click on the button below to download the Consultation paper.
NOISE MANAGEMENT BOARD PUBLIC MEETING Held at Gatwick on Tuesday 31 January 2017 The Progress Report presented at the meeting was as professional and up-beat as you might expect. The question and answer session following a coffee break was searching but well-mannered. But is the intention to make improvements good enough?
The fact remains that the experience of those of us on the ground on the Easterly side of Gatwick has not yet improved, the industry has much to do to address this. To see our more detailed comments on the meeting, select the ARRIVALS REVIEW tab above or click HERE.
We have discovered that it is possible to register complaints using your smartphone or Tablet - our comments tell you how.
The Airspace Review Team delivered their final Report at Gatwick on Thursday 28th January as promised. The full Report and the slideshow given at the presentation can be downloaded from our DOWNLOADS section.
We would like to start by thanking Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake, the Arrivals Review Team (ART), for their work in producing this Report and its recommendations.
The Report has two remits: Noise abatement, and Communication with Communities.
These are our full comments on the Report and its recommendations.
Airbus A320 Series Whine P9 (Executive Summary) and pp36/37 para 2.2
We welcome easyJet’s programme for modifying their A320 series fleet and the proposal for a ‘sunset’ date for unmodified aircraft.
The programme involves retrofitting a device to these aircraft to mitigate the whine effect (see a picture in the FACTS section). We are told that aircraft using Gatwick will have priority so that in Tunbridge Wells we should expect a significant improvement by June/July 2016. We have also been told in personal conversation that easyJet have such a tightly-managed flight and maintenance programme that there is no scope for accelerating the retrofitting work. It seems that fitting the small vortex generating device which solves the problem requires the fuel tanks of aircraft to be drained, a job that can only be done during a major, not intermediate, service. For these reasons we are told that easyJet cannot match the performance of Lufthansa, who completed the work on their entire (if smaller) fleet within 12 months. We remain critical of easyJet and others that it has taken 10 years to address this problem.
We would like easyJet to provide regular progress reports identifying the remaining aircraft to be modified with dates when the work is to be done. We note that time is short if they are to live up to their undertaking of significant improvement by June/July 2016..
We are concerned that comparable information is not available for British Airways and other airlines operating these aircraft into Gatwick, who have the same problem.
We would like all other airlines using these aircraft at Gatwick to provide information about their plans to make these modifications to their aircraft.
We welcome the proposed Sunset date of December 31st 2017 for all aircraft using Gatwick to modify their A320 series aircraft, with an appropriate (and meaningful) noise penalty thereafter for non-compliant aircraft.
Land Use Planning P9 (Executive Summary) and p39 para 2.3
We welcome the proposal for the opening of discussions on the subject of future development. However, this issue is of little consolation to long-established communities.
We welcome the proposal that Gatwick publish and maintain information for interested parties involved in the housing market so that house buyers can be informed of the issue and make a personal judgement when choosing their future home. This is a serious issue for some but by no means everyone, and the possibility of preventing some purchasers from making a mistake in such a major commitment is to be welcomed.
Operational Measures: change to the Interception Points (IP) P10 (Executive Summary) and p57
We welcome the proposal that the nearest IP be moved from 10 to 8 nautical miles.
The ILS is a concentrated flight path which subjects those underneath to constant, unremitting noise, only relieved by a change in the prevailing wind. Shortening the length of the ILS in principal reduces the length of concentration, carrying joining aircraft to the West away from the more densely populated areas.
We think that, on balance, the advantage lies with moving the nearest IP to 8 nautical miles as proposed, it is probably the nearest that the Airspace Review Team could come in their recommendations to meet the demand of many, to return to the pre-2014 arrangement. We are concerned, however, that Gatwick and the CAA may not wish to implement this recommendation; if this proves to be the case then we should demand a very full explanation.
We urge acceptance by Sir Roy McNaulty of the proposal to move the nearest IP from 10 to 8 nautical miles.
The Airspace Review Team have made it clear that the further point of the swathe, proposed to move from 12 to 14nm, is somewhat notional as Air Traffic Controllers are free to vector aircraft as the need arises once the nearest IP (whether 8, 10nm or anything else) is observed, and at busy times will go as far to the east as found necessary.
The recommendations make no mention of introducing any discipline into the management of the swathe so ‘fair and equitable distribution’ is not immediately achieved from them. The tracks flown continue to be described as ‘random’.
We would like further debate and the exploration of possible solutions to deliver improvements to the management of the swathe.
We urge that any proposals take into account the more densely populated areas in accordance with Government and international guidelines to minimise the numbers affected by aircraft noise.
Holding Stacks and Defined Arrival Routes P11 (Executive Summary) and pp39-59
We welcome the proposal to begin discussion about the way more accurate navigation technology (P-RNAV) is used.
The introduction of P-RNAV is some way off . There are options as to how it is implemented (see Appendix 8, P91) which need identifying in preparation for a debate, which is likely to be lively. We think that it will offer significant advantages all round when properly implemented.
We would like the implementation of P-RNAV to be brought forward as a matter of priority once agreement has been reached on the details of its implementation. We think that it offers the best opportunity for predictability and managed respite (p50), which we consider very desirable.
Continuous Descent Approaches (CDA) P12 (Executive Summary) and p43 para 2.4
We welcome the proposals that the definition of CDA’s be subject to incremental improvements, started at greater altitudes and holding areas be relocated higher and over water.
The issue that concerns us is the angle of descent. The steeper this is the higher aircraft will be for longer during its descent. Figure 8 on page 46 of the Report suggests that aircraft at 25nm from Gatwick should be well over 6,000ft with a 3° angle of descent. We think that this is right, but it is not what we see; Tunbridge Wells is about 25 flying nm from Gatwick. Aircraft over the town are typically in the range 4,000 to 5,500ft, sometimes lower so they are clearly descending at an angle shallower than 3 degrees. The report does not discuss the scope for increasing the angle of descent during the initial and intermediate approach phases. Figure 7 on page 43 suggests that steeper approaches should be manageable.
We would like the scope for increasing the angle of descent during approach prior to joining the ILS to be explored, to achieve an increase in height during initial and intermediate descent. This would ensure a realistic discussion about what is achievable.
We would also like the noise effects of steepening the approach by aerodynamic means to be investigated or reported (if already available) and published in the hope that there may be an acceptable tradeoff.
Operational Procedures: Perception of Height P41
We welcome the proposal for an investigation into the perception that aircraft are flying lower than in the past, while suspecting that the increase in the volume of traffic, the size of some aircraft and the increase in overflying of communities unused to it come into the picture. We do not accept the assertion that they are no lower than they used to be, detailed feedback we have received suggests otherwise.
Landing Direction P13 (Executive Summary) and p61
We welcome the proposal to use low wind conditions to balance the disturbance from aircraft on approach as a small contribution to respite, which is always a matter of balance. We never expected to greet an Easterly wind with such appreciation as we do now, while recognising that our good fortune is a disappointment to others.
Operational Efficiency P14 (Executive Summary) and pp54 and 63
We welcome the proposed steps to improve performance in the regularity of flights by whatever means may be effective.
In its push to maximise its flight throughput, Gatwick puts several matters at risk. It is more vulnerable to disturbances to the normal, planned routine, and noise impact from flights delayed into the night period is only one; safety is another.
Noise Complaints Management and Policy P15 (Executive Summary) and pp42 & 72
We welcome the proposals for Gatwick to establish an enhanced complaints policy, facilities and procedures with corresponding transparency, and to provide staffing accordingly. We take any opportunity ourselves to support valid complaints when we can.
Our Web site provides advice and access to Gatwick’s existing complaints site and we encourage the public to let Gatwick know when a flight causes concern. We think that this is the way to enable informed improvement and rebuild trust.
We are concerned that the comments about the accuracy of altitude reporting on Page 42, paragraph 2.4, Perceptions of Aircraft Height, might discourage the public from using the most flexible and available tools to help identify an offending aircraft and obtain basic information about it. We think that the main software in this discussion is Casper, configured and used by Gatwick and accuracy fully verified, and Flightradar24, which reports the Flight Level rather than height above Gatwick’s runway, which is what Casper reports. Doubts have also been cast about errors with Flightradar24, but it is without question the more flexible and accessible tool for the public whatever its shortcomings. Unlike Casper, apps for Flightradar24 are available for smartphones and tablets as well as PC’s and Apple Macs, and it displays live information as against Casper’s 20 minute delay. We are disappointed that the Report did not explore the scope for using Flightradar24 in spite of any problems. See also P19 (Context).
We would like Gatwick to let complainants of low flying know the actual height as a matter of routine, and should provide or confirm other details of the flight. We understand that aircraft are not being flown at heights lower than those prescribed by operational instructions but we think that those standards are much too low. We think that the measures we suggest should go a long way to helping public perception of height and its impact on the observer.
Noise Management Board P15 (Executive Summary) and p73
We welcome the proposal to establish this body and support its purposes. Our main concern is with the means we will have to engage in its deliberations. We are also concerned that this should never become just another ineffective talking shop or palliative to absorb public discontent.
Night Operations Refer to p56
It is clear that this is a topic of considerable concern to many of the public. The present arrangement is unsatisfactory. The Report does not address it specifically as it considers that other recommendations will alleviate the problem; we are not convinced. In the short term our serious concern is that night flights will continue to use the 10nm joining point, not the 8nm one, so will still fly over the western side of the town including the Langton Green area (part of our concept of the Tunbridge Wells conurbation) and continue to be a problem. We understand that the purpose of the CAA directive under which Night Operations work is to alleviate the noise problem but consider that the actual result is perverse. We note the it is to be reviewed in 2017.
We would like this directive to be reconsidered in the short term to alleviate the problems of overflying more densely populated areas at night, by joining the ILS at the 8nm point.
We would like the review in 2017 to recommend discontinuing night flights at Gatwick, to reflect arrangements at Heathrow.
In our own conclusion, we think that we owe the Airspace Review Team a debt of gratitude for undertaking a very demanding task, and doing so with great patience and good humour. We urge Sir Roy McNaulty to respond in kind and follow Bo and Graham’s advice to take the recommendations forward with urgency and in full cooperation with all stakeholders.
TWAANG 15 March 2016
Graphical Display of Arrival Flights from September to November 2016 Click on the two Tabs, below (red is active) Prepared by Angus Stewart
Slideshows Click on the image below and use the controls to run through the sequence
For this exercise we established a Monitoring Line running from Ashurst to Pembury, roughly along the line of the A264, and divided it into seven Sectors with extensions at either end. We now count the aircraft crossing the Line at hourly intervals, a day at a time. This enabled us to create graphs (histograms) which show the distribution of flights over the Monitoring line, and the 'Bell Curve' effect - where the peak lies and the degree of concentration. Our monitoring method is very simple and can be replicated by anyone who might wish to verify our findings
Under the GRAPHS AND SLIDESHOWS tab immediately above we show a set of graphs for weekends, starting with 2/3 July, then from Saturday 20 August to Sunday 11 September.
We then offer a slideshow of weekend graphs up to Sunday 18 September so that you can decide for yourself whether there has been a change - or perhaps understand why your experience has been so unsatisfactory and upsetting.
Below are two Maps, one showing our Monitoring Line and the other the line of the ILS and the 10 and 8 nautical mile Joining Points.
We do not think that this justifies the advertisements on the London Underground that had to be withdrawn for being misleading, pushing extra flights to the limit day and night at the expense of those under the flight paths, or any other questionable behaviour...
Gatwick has grown strongly since its 2009 takeover, handling 40.3m passengers last year, compared with 32m in 2009 (PA)
GATWICK'S bosses have signed up to a bonus scheme that should pay out handsomely when the West Sussex airport is sold.
In the small print of Gatwick's annual accounts, the bonuses of "certain members" of its board are directly linked to the amount received from a sale
The government is currently wrestling with whether to back expansion at Gatwick or Heathrow. The Sussex airport's value is likely to soar if it wins approval for a second runway.
The disclosure will fuel controversy because it indicates, for the first time, that management are likely to gain personally from expansion.
Gatwick was bought from BAA in 2009 for £1.5bn by the private equity giant Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and a consortium of investors.
GIP last week sold London City airport in Docklands for £2.3bn — about 32 times its annual underlying profits — setting a record for an airport.
We missed the following article in the Sunday Times of 28th February, our thanks to GACC for drawing attention to it on their Web site:
Did you see this? ‘Gatwick’ or ‘Get-Rich-Quick’?
The article says: THE SUNDAY TIMES Gatwick links bosses' bonuses to airport sale Airport lends senior executives £2.8m to buy shares that could bring bonanza with sell-off John Collingridge Published: 28 February 2016
The Debate on 'the effect of aircraft noise on local communities' was called by Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling. Our report and comments are also in the NEWS section
THERE WAS A PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE ON AIRCRAFT NOISE ON TUESDAY 20th APRIL
Our earlier comments:
Now that everything political and economic has been thrown up in the air following the referendum result, we can expect Gatwick to restate their case for another runway and we must redouble our efforts to oppose it.
Gatwick’s CEO, Stewart Wingate, told the National Infrastructure Forum on 28th June: “It is now clearer than ever that only Gatwick can deliver the new runway that Britain needs”. However, Gatwick are not unknown for overstating their case, their poster campaign in London became notorious and had to be withdrawn. Their objections to the Davies Report were comprehensively rebutted, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday 19 August 2015:
“Sir Howard Davies has shot down the boss of Gatwick, blasting a campaign to reverse the recommendation to expand Heathrow as doing “him and his company no credit”.
The chairman of the Airports Commission issued the strongly worded statement on Wednesday in response to a dossier published by Gatwick earlier this week.
The West Sussex airport and its chief executive, Stewart Wingate, claimed there were “omissions or superficial analysis in some critical areas” of the Commission’s report to the Government on addressing Britain’s capacity crisis.
Sir Howard fired back: “This dossier appears to repeat many points which Gatwick made to the Commission in the course of its work and which, unsurprisingly, were carefully considered.
“They did not alter the Commission’s view that Heathrow was the best option. Using colourful language, as Mr Wingate has done, does not turn weak points into strong ones, and does him and his company no credit.”
Gatwick did not return a call requesting comment. “
Click HERE to see Sir Howard Davies’ letter of response to the Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Patrick McLaughlin. The full Davies Report is accessible from our DOWNLOADS section.
Heathrow have made their own comments with some bitingly critical remarks about Gatwick in the Evening Standard of 11 July, click HERE to see the article.
Local businesses are not all in favour of Gatwick expansion either, click HERE to see some remarks reported on the Independent's Web site on 7 March 2016. And many Councils favour the development of Heathrow, click HERE to see the Daily Mail Online article of 10 July.
At the Airspace Seminar at Gatwick on 10th May Charles Kerwin-Taylor, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director, was invited to say where the flight tracks for a new runway at Gatwick would be placed. Understandably he declined, he has enough on his hands with the problems caused by present arrangements.
The decision on the location for the next runway has been postponed until the new Prime Minister, Teresa May, MP for Maidenhead, is in post. It now seems likely to be considered by the Cabinet in October. It seems quite possible that she will be under pressure to proceed quickly, to demonstrate that the UK is ‘open for business’, to show decisiveness and to help the economy in the face of a downturn following the Brexit outcome of the referendum.
We have always had doubts about the need for another runway in the South East, London has five airports currently and Luton and Stansted are under-used. Click HERE to see the Runway Myth paper on the subject. Airspace in the South East is already severely overcrowded which creates airspace management problems.
We also take the view that it was a mistake for ‘Boris Island’ to have been excluded from the Davies Commission’s remit. Boris Island has the greatest scope for further expansion in the South East, and we have no doubt that the pressure for expansion will continue even if there is a pause in the immediate future.
Furthermore and given the pattern of voting in the referendum, the case for action to support growth in the less favoured Northern parts of the country would seem to be strengthened. Perhaps the next runway should be built to support this strategy.
Other Community organisations have been active in objecting to Gatwick’s ambitions for expansion much longer than TWAANG. The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) produced an informative paper Gatwick Grounded, click HERE to see it. See our NOT ALONE! section to see what other Groups have to say.
Renewed Concerns over Gatwick's ambitions for a second runway
If Gatwick gets a second runway it will alter the character of the towns, villages and countryside in West Kent and East Sussex for ever.
EU pollution rules. Cambridge University produced an independent report saying that Heathrow could expand and stay within EU pollution rules. This had been a major concern with respect to expansion at Heathrow and a reason for the delayed decision. Click here to see the article: HEATHROW POLLUTION REPORT
Gatwick will go ahead with building a second runway even if Government chooses Heathrow for the next runway in the SE, according to Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick, as reported on TV, radio and in the press. He says he could apply for planning permission to Sussex County Council, and claims that there would be no cost to the public purse despite massive infrastructure costs; you can choose to believe him or not, Sadiq Kahn has done so but that may not be a good guide.
The South East corner of England is described as the busiest airspace in the world. If Gatwick were to go it alone, could the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Air Traffic Control (NATS) cope with the airspace issues, even one extra runway must pose a serious challenge? They are already trying to re-design the existing airspace structure, now 40 years old and said to be no longer fit for purpose, and by all accounts are finding it a hard problem to solve. The BBC’s recent ‘Skies Above Britain’, especially part 5-London Skies, made the issues clear; it is still available on the BBC iPlayer until Friday 14th and is recommended viewing. LONDON SKIES
‘Gatwick to work to reduce the number of people affected by noise’ - we wish that they would do this more effectively NOW, their track record is abysmal.
BBC Radio 4's Question Time on the runway expansion. One panel member (wisely) declined to comment as she felt she knew too little, the rest chose Gatwick as it disturbed fewest people.
Davies Report (available from our DOWNLOADS section). Before they vote, we hope that MPs will have studied this major Report carefully. It decided in favour of Heathrow in spite of the difficulties since Gatwick’s problems are even worse and the scope much less. Otherwise the decision would be based on political expediency, which could be open to legal challenge.
‘Companies local to Gatwick airport fear that a second runway could damage them badly’. In spite of claims to the contrary, local firms around Gatwick are far from unanimous about the advantages of expansion there according to a report on Monday 7 March in the Independent. Here is the link: INDEPENDENT NEWPAPER ARTICLE
Gatwick is in the wrong place. It is the wrong side of London from the rest of the country, and communications with London itself are limited in scope for improvement to meet the needs of a new runway. Apparently Network Rail said in its recent South East review that ‘the (Gatwick) line is full and a new line can’t be laid.’
Airlines overwhelmingly prefer Heathrow, they have been migrating there over recent years as it is an effective hub for connections for passengers and freight. Two hubs make no sense. If the reason for expansion is for business as we are told, then Heathrow is the business choice.
Gatwick are being investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority for poor timekeeping for departures and arrivals, probably due to over-ambitious plans for throughput which leaves little room for the unexpected and unplanned. The Sunday Times reported that, during the summer, fewer than 50% of flights took off within normal limits and around 40% of landings were late, leading to rows with airlines such as easyJet, who are demanding better punctuality.
Concept of a Northern Powerhouse at risk. The MD of Manchester Airport, which has a new and under-used second runway, expressed his concern and disappointment that there is still no effective national aviation policy.
..and now the Scottish Government is expressing its preference for development at Heathrow.
Other Community Action Groups have also made very useful points and provided advice on how to protest, please click on the following links to see what they have been saying:
Campaign Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE): CAGNE REPORT They also provide more background information in their: September Bulletin Our thanks to Sally Pavey of CAGNE for this.
We strongly suggest that anyone concerned at the prospect of another runway at Gatwick, which would double the traffic over our heads, should write immediately to the following MPs and express their concern:
Cabinet email addresses:
Theresa May number10.gov.uk Philip Hammond email@example.com Amber Rudd firstname.lastname@example.org Boris Johnson email@example.com Michael Fallon firstname.lastname@example.org Elizabeth Truss email@example.com Justine Greening firstname.lastname@example.org David Davis email@example.com Liam Fox firstname.lastname@example.org Greg Clark email@example.com Jeremy Hunt firstname.lastname@example.org Damian Green email@example.com Chris Grayling firstname.lastname@example.org Sajid Javid email@example.com David Lidington firstname.lastname@example.org Baroness Evans of Bowes Park N/A (Leader of the Lords) David Mundell email@example.com Alun Cairns firstname.lastname@example.org James Brokenshire email@example.com Andrea Leadsom firstname.lastname@example.org Priti Patel email@example.com Karen Bradley firstname.lastname@example.org Patrick McLoughlin email@example.com Ben Gummer firstname.lastname@example.org Gavin Williamson email@example.com (Chief Whip)
These are not 'live' links, please copy and paste them into your email address bar. We cannot guarentee the validity of these addresses, if you need to contact a particular MP and the above addresses do not work, we suggest that you 'Google' the name and get in touch with the constituency office.
Our thanks to GON for this list.
You can also see details of the Cabinet Ministers below, including their individual responsibilities:
Please read the Report here, or download it by clicking on the button below.
Report for 19-22 August 2016 Author: Ed Crutchley
With reference to John Telling's letter in last week's Courier, John speaks for tens of thousands of Tunbridge Wells residents when he expresses his concerns over the lack of legal protection afforded to residents when it comes to the constant procession of low flying aircraft over the town serving to blight our lives on a daily basis. This is especially true during these summer months when - God forbid - many of us enjoy sitting peacefully in our gardens during the evenings/weekends and prefer to sleep with our windows open. How dare we expect to enjoy such civil liberties and demand the basic human right to just a little occasional tranquillity/a good night’s sleep?!
Even if there are some people in the town who are not bothered by the incessant scream of low flying jets (how I wish I was one of them!), it is absolutely certain that we are ALL suffering the health problems associated with the noxious pollution that rains down upon us every day from the same source. Why is it considered acceptable by the Government to expect us all to suffer this blight, merely to maximise income for Gatwick Airport and its foreign investors?
The town and surrounding area had no such problem for the 30 years prior to the change of flightpath in 2013 and the only reason for this change was to maximise the number of planes that Gatwick could get into their facility to increase profits 'safely'.....'safely' for who? I ask....certainly not for the people of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area who pay the price for the change that was introduced without any consultation whatsoever, demonstrating Gatwick management's complete contempt and lack of consideration for the local community and their quality of life and well-being.
Why is it considered more important and essential to have Gatwick operating at 100% capacity - at the expense of the well-being of the 70,000 people in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area - than to grant these 70,000 people who don't profit in any way from the Airport's intrusive activities some occasional respite? Heaven help us all if Gatwick gets a second runway....life in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area will become completely intolerable with every house for sale needing to be sold with complementary earplugs!
It is a complete nonsense that - as Gatwick frequently point out - the Airport has every right to send as many planes as they like over Tunbridge Wells with no restrictions whatsoever when it comes to height, time of day/night, or frequency. It is not beyond the wit of man to spread these planes over a much wider area and keep them at a higher altitude for longer, rather than have them screaming overhead in single file just a couple of thousand feet up all day and night. However, Gatwick and the CAA/NATS don't have to do this - so they simply don't bother, leaving us all to suffer accordingly!
Fair, equitable distribution over a wide area is surely a more considerate and reasonable approach, giving us all a little respite and peace of mind.
Many of us were heartened by our MP Greg Clark's assurance last summer that Easyjet and BA had agreed to modify ALL their Gatwick based Airbuses to cure them of their notorious and intrusive whine 'by June 2016'. It simply hasn't happened, which is distressingly evident on a daily basis. Was the promise from the airlines completely disingenuous in the first place, or did they simply, on reflection, decide not to bother because there was no legal requirement for them to do so... and the modification cost money?
It's time Government prevented airports and airlines being given 'carte blanche' to run their operations with no regard whatsoever for the detrimental impact their activities have on local communities.
I hope our new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy agrees with me about this - especially as he has been made to look somewhat ineffectual by the airlines broken promise on Airbus modifications - and takes steps to safeguard his constituents from both the ongoing intrusion of to-day's low flying aircraft and the added horror of a second runway at Gatwick, which would double the nightmare at a stroke.
Yours Faithfully, Trevor Houghton-Berry
Published in the Courier, 19 August 2016
A letter was published in the Tunbridge Wells Courier on 19 August on the question of Civil Liberties and aircraft noise, including night-time. The author was Trevor Houghton-Berry of Tunbridge Wells and we reproduce it here with his permission. Our thanks go also to the Courier.
We also publish a Report on Night Flights here which reveals that there are often as many flights per hour late at night as during the day, and they are indiscriminate about where they fly. The Report concludes:
Noisy flights at night are a serious social and health nuisance. They can cause loss and disturbance of sleep which may result in significant health problems and diminish the ability to function productively during the working day and in children, affect their ability to learn.
Gatwick Airport is allowed a certain number of night flights but flights between 10 pm and midnight are clearly too frequent and not in the best interests of the communities beneath.
Either night flights should be banned altogether or substantial measures taken to abate the 10 pm to midnight rush hour.
Again, the Report can be read or downloaded below.
NEWS FLASH - A FALSE DAWN The promised move of the nearest joining point on the ILS (where arriving aircraft line up with the runway in preparation for landing) to 8 nautical miles formally took place on Monday 15th August - but the wind was Easterly so we to the East of Gatwick had a period of relief anyway, and it was not clear what the change meant for us.
This became all too clear by the weekend of 20/21 August, when the return of Westerly winds showed that the change has actually pushed the peak of concentration of flights to the East - towards and over West and Central Tunbridge Wells, amongst others.
We have implemented our Monitoring systems, Click on the HOT NEWS button above to see our Monitoring Reports which tell the story in detail.
Representatives from the Airport as well as NATS, the CAA and EasyJet gave progress reports on plans to implement the recommendations in the Arrivals Review report.
Gatwick Airport held another Community Engagement Event on Tuesday 26th April
The Noise Management Board will need to work hard to achieve real improvements, it was clear from the meeting that they face a number of challenges which include:
The proportion of modified A320 series aircraft using Gatwick will be lower than we would like as easyJet and British Airways fleets will only be partially processed by July, and other airlines concerned have not yet been approached. This is disappointing. At least easyJet have said that they will prioritise Gatwick for their modified aircraft, so thanks for that.
It seems that it may be impossible to implement the proposed ‘sunset date’ of December 2017 and any penalties for unmodified aircraft using Gatwick thereafter for legal reasons.
We think that CDAs are being flown at too shallow an angle of descent, even if continuous, which is why aircraft are lower than we expect. Consequently it is difficult for us to have confidence that the intended benefit from raising the start of CDA descent will be realised. We hope to be reassured.
Night Flights remain an issue which is not being addressed to the satisfaction any of the Community representatives.
The membership and other arrangements for the NMB are being very actively discussed.
We wish Bo Redeborn as Chair, with Graham Lake’s help, all the best with tackling these issues.
Our full comments on these points can be downloaded here:
A DEBATE WAS HELD IN WESTMINSTER HALL ON TUESDAY 20th APRIL TO DISCUSS AIRCRAFT NOISE
Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling, secured a Parliamentary debate which took place in the morning of Tuesday 20th April in Westminster Hall. It was well attended and speakers also included Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, and Robert Goodwill, Minister of State at the Department for Transport and responsible for aviation matters. To his credit, although not our MP, Tom mentioned Tunbridge Wells as included in communities suffering from Gatwick’s activities; ‘..badly affected and simply not counted’. Greg Clark was present in the Hall but did not speak. The Minister repeated the statement, above, about policy with respect to the number of people affected by aircraft noise, although ‘significantly’ remains badly or undefined.
If we are to pick out two concerns about the Minister’s speech they would be:
He says that the Government is still committed to the current noise standard of 57dB although current ways of measuring noise are widely condemned as discredited, utterly inadequate, out of date and no longer fit for purpose. Tom Tugendhat referred to the issue and he and other speakers also raised the question of the impact on health.
Road and rail infrastructure projects are well regulated, but airspace not at all. As Tom Tugendhat said: “Were a motorway to be bulldozed through (a citizen’s) back garden or a railway to be bulldozed under their land, they would have a right to be consulted. When the same is done in the air ... they get no say. That is surely wrong.” The Minister made no mention of it whatsoever.
A copy of the Hansard report (reformatted for ease of reading but wording unchanged) is available in our DOWNLOADS section, or click on this button.
Tom Tugendhat and Graham Lake (of the review team) were interviewed on Radio Kent that morning, as was Martin Barraud of Gatwick Obviously Not (GON). Our thanks have gone to all of them for their work on everyone’s behalf. You can listen to the interviews here.
We have only been around for a week or so but much has happened. The few of us (very few thus far) who are TWAANG have been quick off the mark, thanks to hard work by all, as you see we now have a website and an address for emails. We have been writing to LGW, GATCOM, CAA, DfT, MP Greg Clark. Apart from complaining and questioning the changes (denied by LGW) we have asked repeatedly why Tunbridge Wells had no voice, had not been consulted, to little avail. This is despite the fact that 70% of arrivals into Gatwick are from a westerly direction ie from the east and over Tunbridge Wells and we are probably the largest town in the Kent area of the flight path.
Principally, following the public meeting at Crowborough on 23rd October with the Independent Airspace Review, who are advising on Arrivals into Gatwick, we managed to secure a private meeting last week with the two experts – Bo Redeborn and Geoff Lake. Their credentials can be checked on line via the GATCOM website. Their Project Delivery Plan sets out the parameters of the Review, Terms of Reference etc.
There has been a 550% increase in the numbers of complaints about lowlevel, noisy flights, even though most flights are above the HMG minimum of 2500 above sea level. We advised them that Gatwick’s current arrivals path flew (no pun) in the face of HMG’s stated policy not to fly over areas of large population, that RTW had 56,000 souls, and 112,000 on the whole Borough, furthermore, the town was growing with an increasingly younger demograph.
In a nutshell the Airspace Review seems to be concentrating on dispersal of the flight paths over Tunbridge Wells, allocating three paths. We advised them of the distress caused by the noise and frequency of the planes, those people who attended the Crowborough meeting will know of the vociferous complaints about the attitude and arrogance of Gatwick and CAA etc., which will probably eventually be to their detriment in that by annoying so many people there is a groundswell of opinion against Gatwick.
However, we cannot rest upon our laurels, although Bo Redeborn and Geoff Lake say they have understood the issues and complaints, a lot more work is needed, and we at TWAANG need your help, so, apart from writing/emailing/phoning the organizations noted before and repeated at the end of this note keep your diaries free for a possible public meeting with Greg Clark and the Review Team (we’re waiting to hear) better late than never. It is extremely unlikely we will see a return to the routes before 2013 so a determined and effective campaign is still needed.
So report noisy low level flights to Gatwick.
Record your opposition to the current revised flight paths and flight levels to the CAA.
Write or email your MP.
Ask the Civic Society to get involved – this is a quality of life issue.
Ask RTWBC to get involved and help protect this Town and Borough.
Ask your local councilor to get involved.
We only have until the end of November to voice our views and complaints so do it now! Contact us at…………….
Or members of the committee direct :……………….
JOIN us now – we need your help.
And if you don’t do anything don’t complain when the planes come……and remember there will be more and more irrespective of whether LGW gets a second runway, their declared aim is continued growth at 3.5%pa, currently there are 260,000 movements pa, 3.5% = 9,100 = 4,550 arrivals = 88 per week more every year.
And finally this is only Phase 1 of the TWAANG campaign, despite the recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow LGW is still angling (with lots of support politically) for a second runway.
Peter Clymer & Irene Fairbairn Co Chairs TWAANG
Letter to the Courier and Times of Tunbridge Wells
Released on 14 January 2016
There seems to be an erroneous suggestion by some of your recent correspondents that all has gone quiet regarding the campaign to reduce aircraft noise from Gatwick.
Far from it. For Tunbridge Wells residents who have endured increasingly polluted skies these last two summers, the winter months have, in the past, offered some respite in quantity if not noise from overflying aircraft. However, this winter has seen little relief. This is bound to get worse as the airport desperately seeks to squeeze as much throughput (and profit) as possible from its asset ahead of a sale to new owners.
Whether or not Gatwick succeeds in its campaign for a second runway, it is clear that we will continue to suffer the adverse effects of the altered flight paths unless the airport operator becomes a better neighbour.
TWAANG has repeatedly made the case for a return to the previous flight path arrangements; for a ban on low flying aircraft at all times and supported GANN (Gatwick Area Night flight Nightmare)’s campaign to ban night flights over the town. Both have contributed to the “independent” review team set up by Gatwick to research and find solutions to these problems. Their recommendations will be made public on 28 January 2016. We are not hopeful that the recommendations will meet our concerns and intend to brief the Town Forum on the same day to seek their support in maintaining the pressure on Gatwick to change its ways.
We welcome Gatwick Obviously Not’s successful appeal for a judicial review against the Civil Aviation Authority for the way that the new Gatwick flight paths were introduced without sufficient local consultation. As we know, the legal process grinds on slowly and a successful judicial review will not tackle the pressing need for the town and its residents to reclaim quiet skies overhead.
LOCAL MPs WILL BE MEETING GATWICK AND NATS REPRESENTATIVES THIS WEEK OF 25 APRIL TO URGE RAPID IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 23 RECOMMENDATIONS
Our MP Greg Clark, together with Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling, and Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, are due to meet Gatwick and NATS representatives in the week of 25th April to encourage them to implement quickly and completely the 23 changes recommended by the Arrivals Review and accepted in principle by Gatwick. We have sent Greg, copy to Gatwick, a submission to emphasise the points which we consider the most immediately important for Tunbridge Wells as well as all other local communities affected by the aircraft noise issue. We said:
We are very encouraged that you and your fellow local MP’s are to meet Gatwick to urge them to implement the 23 accepted recommendations from the ART report speedily and thoroughly. We are grateful for this initiative.
Very many of the recommendations are clearly beneficial, under Gatwick’s control and relatively straightforward to implement, we feel no need to comment on these. We would urge you to focus particularly on the following:
• Move of the closest joining point on the ILS from the controversial 10nm point to 8nm for both daytime and night time arrivals. The majority of communities are strongly in favour of this as it increases the opportunity to disperse the disturbance of Westerly arriving aircraft more widely as seen before 2013, and we support this as absolutely essential. Without it no real improvement will be seen.
• Improve the performance of Continuous Descent Approaches to keep incoming aircraft higher and quieter for longer. In spite of Gatwick’s claims the performance has been demonstrably poor – their standard is inadequate and not fit for purpose. This measure will go a long way to meet our aspiration for the Tunbridge Wells conurbation to minimise the disturbance in this, the largest concentration of population in the area, but it also meets the needs of all affected communities, urban and rural.
• We need reassurance that easyJet’s undertaking, given both to you and to ART some time ago, will be honoured, ie all of their A320 series aircraft operating at Gatwick will have the noise-reducing modification by July this year. It is noticeable by its omission from the Action Plan.
• The Tunbridge Wells conurbation is the biggest concentration of population in the area and it was reported to have been the main source of the rise in complaints following the 2013 changes to arrivals. It would be totally wrong for this densely populated areas not to have a representative at the Noise Management Board alongside the more rural areas, and we ask you to ensure this. We therefore strongly advocate a total of four community representatives, one for urban and one for rural communities both East and West. This balance of representation will be particularly important when the design of PRNAV routes begins in the near future. We would remind you of the DfT‘s statement: ‘Our overall policy is to limit and where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK who are significantly affected by aircraft noise. That remains our overarching policy and the aviation industry is fully aware of it.’.
We also contributed to the submission made to Greg and Gatwick by the Tunbridge Wells Aircraft Noise Study Group, this is available in our DOWNLOADS section or click on this button.
LOCAL MP's ARE MEETING GATWICK AND NATS REPRESENTATIVES IN THE WEEK OF MONDAY 25 APRIL
We have sent Greg Clark MP a list of our most important issues - see the NEWS section (or click on HOT NEWS)
GATWICK SAY THAT THEY HAVE ACCEPTED ALL OF THE REVIEW TEAM RECOMMENDATIONS AND THIS HAS BEEN GIVEN A CAUTIOUS WELCOME BY MANY See our NEWS section to discover why we think that caution is thoroughly justified
Gatwick's Action Plan is available in our DOWNLOADS section
We do not have to put up in silence when repeated low-flying aircraft disturb us, day or night.
Wednesday, 16 December: The Airspace Review Team is making a presentation of its developing proposals to a gathering of local representatives at Gatwick, followed by a feedback session. We will be there and will let you know how we think the situation is developing, especially from Tunbridge Wells' perspective.
December 2015: Government decision re Heathrow or Gatwick. - 7th December: This decision has been postponed for at least 6 months.
We urge Greg Clark to support the recommendations of the Davies Report in favour of a third runway at Heathrow.
Thursday, 21 Jan 2016: Airspace Review Team report and recommendations
Then a three month period for discussion about implementation with interested parties.
Implementation of any recommendations could take a further 8 months.
We are therefore facing at least a further year of noise and pollution though some mitigation may be possible in the shorter term.
GATCOMS’ next meetings 28 Jan, 28 April, 14 July.
We do have two TW Councillors present but they are not allowed to speak!
Mid 2016: Modification of EasyJet planes to stop the ‘whine’ is due to be completed. We have asked Greg Clark to get EasyJet and BA to publish details of their plans and progress for this.
Jan 2017: Implementation of Airspace Review Team recommendations is due.
2017: There will be a Revision of Gatwick Night Flights - we want to see similar restrictions to those in force at Heathrow.
Progress is being made but the overriding message is to keep complaining- it our most powerful leverage for change. Please record noisy flights, email or write to Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL), your MP, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), GATCOM - keep up the pressure. See our Complain section for details.
We have now heard that complaints to Gatwick (not verified) totalled 3,270 in 2013, a massive 25,440 in 2014, and we believe it may be even higher for 2015. Tunbridge Wells recorded the most complaints over the three months to June 2015. It is because of complaints and consequent shareholder concerns that we have the Review.
Flights all over Tunbridge Wells?
The meeting on Saturday 28 November 2015 was hosted by our MP, Rt Hon Greg Clark, and the Airspace Review Team (ART), Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake, gave a presentation of their work so far.
The meeting went well but inevitably left questions unanswered. The ART emphasised both that they were determined to make recommendations that stood the very best possible chance of acceptance, and that there was no going back to earlier air traffic flight paths – a remark that was not universally popular. However, they expressed confidence that they would be able to improve the situation quickly with their short-term recommendations; at the meeting less mention was made of the longer term.
They explained that they are considering many options but it is their policy not to include options in their final Report, in confidence that they will recommend a well-considered optimal solution and to prevent unconstructive endless further argument creating the opportunity for more delay.
They also assured the audience that all the agencies they have been talking to – Department for Transport (DfT), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the National Air Transport Service (NATS) and Gatwick (GAL) are all committed to reducing noise nuisance on the ground. They said that failure to consult over the 2013 changes to flight routing which have caused so much concern was not malicious but just that nobody thought of it! (we think it an alarming indication of the mind set of the authorities).
A concern we have is that the present approach control regime (Radar Vectoring managed between NATS at Swanwick and pilots) is a haphazard affair with too little awareness of the public on the ground. ART acknowledged that further training of those concerned is needed to sharpen performance; if their short-term proposals are to deliver the intended benefits then this would seem to be essential.
In the short term the plan is likely to be that the Interception Points (IP’s) where aircraft join the Instrument Landing System’s (ILS) 3 degree closely controlled beam towards a safe landing will span a wider swathe from 8 to 14 nautical miles (9.2 to 16.1 statute miles). This will be combined with a steeper Continuous Descent Approach (CDA, as opposed to a stepped approach) starting higher, possibly at 7,000 ft, with engines at Flight Idle setting so making minimal noise and putting the aircraft higher than at present. (Most aircraft follow a CDA at present, but we have calculated that this is at a typical angle of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees, which is why they are lower and use engine power).
If the recommendations are followed accurately then flights will be spread more thinly over a wider span of countryside, villages and, in particular, all over Tunbridge Wells itself. Over Tunbridge Wells they would be at around 5,500 ft rather than the present very variable 5,000 down to 4,000 ft or less.
It is Government policy, recently reiterated in the House of Commons, that aircraft should not fly over densely populated areas wherever possible. It is not clear where ART stand on this in their immediate plans - what do you think?
The recent announcement by the Government to defer a decision on the building of an additional runway in the South East comes as no surprise. We do not know the implications but are very concerned.
Howard Davies’ independent review into the subject firmly recommended that any additional runway should be built at Heathrow with suitable environmental safeguards. We understand these are to be investigated further in the coming months but there is also a very complicated political situation in the background with the London Mayoral Elections due in May.
As a group campaigning for quieter skies in west Kent and Tunbridge Wells in particular, TWAANG would like to see the same examination of Gatwick’s environmental credentials. Effective restrictions on night flights and the setting of high air quality standards should apply equally to Gatwick.
If airport expansion is required in London and the South East, a claim we dispute, residents in the entire region deserve airports that are good neighbours.
Please go to the Downloads tab (More...) and have a look at the The UK Runway Myth paper - we think that it is very good. Dare we hope that the Government thinks so too?
GON (Gatwick Obviously Not) held a well-attended meeting in the evening of Friday 26th February in Penshurst. The meeting was chaired by Martin Barraud and Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, was on the stage together with Richard Streatfield, Chair of HWCAAG, and two members of the GON team. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the recommendations of the Airspace Review presented on 28th January at Gatwick.
The meeting aired some very important issues and this is our initial response.
• We remain very worried about the effect of the swathe extending to 14 nautical miles as this will take flights further over a densely populated area including the Hospital, especially during the busy summer period. It is the quiet season now but we have the prospect of an increasingly difficult Spring and Summer ahead.
• The aircraft noise issue is far from resolved. By the end of March Sir Roy McNulty, Chairman of Gatwick, is due to present his proposals on those recommendations he chooses, followed by a 6-week consultation period before implementation begins. Nothing is guaranteed as yet.
• The proposal for the swathe to be widened from the present 10-12 nautical miles to 8-14nm, even if accepted, is not the end of the matter. There are hints that the 8nm move may not be acceptable to Gatwick. The Airspace review Team (ART, Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake) stated very explicitly that there would be no additional controls over the way tracks are flown so we can anticipate continued low flying, day and night.
• We will only achieve the changes we need if we remain very active in making our opinions and objections known to the politicians, organisations and individuals involved. If left in peace they will not change. They will not like constant expressions of complaint and discontent, and the resulting bad publicity
If you are unhappy with the aircraft noise situation and the proposals:
PLEASE CONTINUE TO LET THOSE CONCERNED KNOW
It is your best - probably only - weapon against some difficult opponents and an unsatisfactory future for the town and its surroundings.
We have added an extended list of email addresses to our ‘COMPLAINTS’ section, please use it.
We are puzzled and concerned at the current silence of our MP Greg Clark and Leader of the Borough Council David Jukes on both the Review and the second runway. GON are well supported by their MP, and villages by parish councillors through HWCAAG. Where is the support for the interests of Tunbridge Wells town?
Our comments on GON's public meeting
Reaction to the postponement of the decision on the next London Runway
AIRSPACE REVIEW TEAM REPORT A very mixed bag for Tunbridge Wells
The Airspace Review Team delivered their final Report at Gatwick on Thursday as promised. It is a very extensive Report and time is short so we can only make a few preliminary comments on those points most relevant to Tunbridge Wells. We also offer you access to the slides we saw at the presentation, and to the Report itself (all 92 pages).
Please see the Downloads section for the full slide show given at the presentation.
We also gave our own presentation of our preliminary reaction to the Town Forum that evening and those slides can also be downloaded.
The Report has two remits: Noise abatement, and Communication with Communities.
Noise Abatement Airbus A320 series aircraft whine. We welcome the proposal to set a ‘sunset’ date at the end of 2017 for unmodified aircraft using Gatwick, after which they would be subject to financial penalties. More immediately, there should be a noticeable improvement by July, and this will continue.
Continuous Descent Approach Gatwick already claim that over 95% of their arrivals conform to this style of approach, but there is a range of loosely defined standards (the highest is sometime called 5 star). We welcome the proposal to upgrade Gatwick’s performance although it will take time for changes to work their way through to implementation and noticeable benefit for those on the ground.
Precision Area Navigation This is a longer-term development leading to much more accurate management of aircraft on the approach. It offers considerable potential for improvement if implemented well. We do not like seeing Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough within the 55dB noise band - that is getting noisy.
Approach Stabilisation Initiative The recommendation is for the spread of joining points onto the ILS (the straight line which aircraft fly down onto the runway) to change from the current 10-12 nautical miles to 8-14nm, widening the swathe of aircraft which sweep round as they approach. This is in line with the preference expressed by GON and other organisations. We are concerned that it will increase the number of people experiencing disturbance from noisy aircraft, in conflict with the stated aim on slide 6 of ‘Fewer disturbed’ as it will take aircraft over the whole of Tunbridge Wells and beyond to Pembury and the Hospital and villages in the area. In principle this will ‘thin out’ the aircraft over a wider band. It remains to be seen if the extra disturbance experienced by those newly affected can be justified by the improvements for those now under the flight paths.
Night Operations This is a topic of considerable concern to many who have been in contact with us. The Report does not address it specifically as it considers that other recommendations will alleviate the problem. Our serious concern is that night flights will continue to use the 10nm joining point, not the 8nm one, so will still fly over the western side of the town including the Langton Green area (part of our concept of the Tunbridge Wells conurbation) and continue to be a problem.
Communication with Communities Noise Management Board We welcome this proposal, but we must see Tunbridge Wells represented on such a board as it is the largest conurbation affected by the noise issue to the East of Gatwick. One problem is that the measures used by the aviation industry to recognise noise disturbance as experienced by those on the ground are inadequate, too low, and out-of-date. It is partly because of this that Tunbridge Wells is not acknowledged as a problem by Gatwick and others in spite of the leap in level of complaints that arose as a result of the late-2013 changes. Tunbridge Wells is invisible. We welcome a remark made by Graham Lake during the presentation that the metrics of noise disturbance is an issue under review.
At the GATCOM meeting which followed the presentation, Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer of Gatwick, welcomed the report and undertook to present his proposals and timetable for implementation of accepted recommendations at the end of March as recommended.
In summary we think that Tunbridge Wells and the High Weald is an area under significant threat from Gatwick. We took short-term comfort from the suggestion that Gatwick is now operating very close to capacity, but we are concerned that the widened swathe will prove to have a detrimental effect on the Tunbridge Wells conurbation.
If Gatwick were to be given permission for another runway it would have the potential to be at least as large as Heathrow and the town and Weald would cease to be the delightful place we know and value.
Tunbridge Wells is a Royal Spa town, a Georgian gem of South East England
It is a Royal Spa town. It is a thriving commercial and tourist town famous for the elegance of the Pantiles and its many fine buildings. At its heart is 250 acres of wooded common, and it is the gateway to the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Comments on the Airspace Review Team's presentation to community representatives on Wednesday 16 December
We found the presentation made by Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake of the Airspace Review Team (ART) to community representatives at Gatwick last Wednesday, 16th December, interesting but far from reassuring.
It seems that their recommendations are likely to include a broadening of the swathe of aircraft approaching Gatwick from the East so that it will reach further to the East, if spread a bit more thinly. We think that this is a formula for increasing the number of people affected which is likely to increase, not reduce, the level of complaints.
These aircraft will not avoid the Tunbridge Wells conurbation, nor will there be any new height limitation. Furthermore, it seems that the CAA, NATS, the airlines and Gatwick have no way of improving height management under the present Radar-based navigation systems, which are set to continue for some time, so we will still see low flying and turning aircraft over the area.
The news about the retrofitting of devices to eliminate the notorious whine of the A320 series aircraft may be better, although unfortunately it did not come out of the meeting. EasyJet’s Chief Executive, Carolyn McCall, wrote to Greg Clark in July 2015 saying that they expected to completed the work on 100 out of 197 aircraft in the fleet by June 2016, and that aircraft at Gatwick would be ‘frontloaded’ (given priority?). All EasyJet aircraft are of this type. Aircraft not actually based at the airport will also use it, but 58 aircraft are based there and there will also be new aircraft in the fleet already prefitted. Ms McCall also states that the ‘large majority’ of aircraft operating from Gatwick will have been modified by that date. The ART asked EasyJet, British Airways and Monarch some time ago for further information on this but we understand that they have not yet received a reply. See the relevant papers in our Documents section.
At the meeting, Bo Redeborn announced that new regulations will mean that ‘some’ aircraft will be quieter by 7Db in future. This seems unlikely to help us, the A320 series (if eventually without the whine) is in mid-life as a design and will be with us for many years. The massive A380 is said to be 5Db quieter than its predecessors, but if it gets too low, as happens now, and has to open up four of the largest engines in the business it will be anything but quiet.
The CAA have been making changes to airspace recently and this will continue as part of a major process to bring UK airspace up-to-date, it has not changed much over the past 40 years. The process is intended primarily to increase capacity although the CAA’s latest announcements mention measures which will improve noise disturbance for London City, Stansted and Southampton; Gatwick might as well not exist.
There were discussions about Night flights, we did not hear anything that suggested improvement from present conditions.
Another aim of the Report is to improve Gatwick’s communications with the public. Manchester, a publically-owned airport, not one owned by an off-shore private company, sets the standard. They publish a paper and videos to explain how they operate and what they do to alleviate noise problems. You can see the result in our Downloads section. Gatwick’s latest flyer, Gatwick Airmail Edition 2, is utterly pathetic in comparison.
Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake express confidence in the willingness of the various aviation bodies to address the question of noise disturbance. We do hope that they are right. We have yet to see much evidence.
Looking further ahead, substantial changes to airspace layout, navigating technology and flying techniques are in prospect. We do not know when this might happen, but in particular for those who live within reach of Gatwick there is going to be the question of future routing; whether the swathe pattern continues or several (perhaps three) concentrated paths with respite are adopted; ‘Concentration v Dispersal’. Would you prefer to have disturbance at intervals throughout the day, or constant disturbance on one day and peace for the next two? A change in the wind from West to East (70:30 proportion on average) provides very welcome respite for us, but for the rest of the time the choice remains.
The ART’s Powerpoint presentation is available in the Downloads section (Recommended).
We think it important that we continue to let the authorities know when aircraft behave badly and cause unacceptable disturbance.
Our final letter to the Airspace Review Team
Dear Bo and Graham,
We hope that you enjoyed a good festive break before settling down to the final part of your Review.
We feel it necessary to offer our response to your presentation on the 16 December. Unfortunately it is felt that the short term recommendations proposed in the preliminary review meeting on the 16 December are unlikely to significantly improve the situation for the conurbation of Tunbridge Wells and its 74,000 citizens - nor will they stem the rising tide of complaints from residents in the area or indeed mitigate the public relations disaster for Gatwick Airport Ltd. The air traffic has been severe and increasingly heavy over Tunbridge Wells this winter and we are receiving very distressed comments from residents.
We continue to ask for an exclusion zone over Tunbridge Wells, both in the short and long term, in line with government aviation policy that low flying over densely populated areas should be avoided where possible. We welcome the proposal for the latest joining point to be at 8 nautical miles but a joining point of 14nm will involve even more areas of Tunbridge Wells being overflown. Night flights at joining point 10+ nm are intolerable over Tunbridge Wells and totally unnecessary. We strongly recommend that the latest joining point of 8nm should be adopted as standard for all night flights, when lower traffic levels should make this practical.
We think that Gatwick’s strident commercial ambitions put serious strain on current navigation techniques to the detriment of the Communities, and really significant progress towards an acceptable resolution of the noise issue will only be achieved, if at all, with the introduction of more sophisticated technology – P-RNAV. We ask that you provide a full explanation in your report of what is proposed for the introduction of P-RNAV, the timescale and precise details of tracks, with explanation for any delays that might prolong the noise problem.
We have taken note of the reasoned and well-expressed arguments made in the recently published paper by David Howden and the Tunbridge Wells Aircraft Study Group. This report carefully examines the problems and makes appropriate suggestions for remedying the situation both in the immediate and longer term.
You also have TWAANG’s Aims and Proposals for the Reduction ofAircraft Noise over Tunbridge Wells
We invite you to reread these papers and in particular to heed the statement that the Tunbridge Wells community represented by TWAANG does not request maximum equitable dispersal rather than concentration of flight paths. We think it a mistake that the original Terms of Reference were amended, since it has created a conflict in the aims of the review. We are seeking an exclusion zone- no low flying planes over Tunbridge Wells. We insist that the voice of this conurbation is heard.
With kind regards
Irene Fairbairn Co Chair TWAANG
Peter Clymer Co Chair TWAANG
Cc Sir Roy McNulty Rt Hon Greg Clark MP Stewart Wingate
Letter to the Airspace Review Team following TWAANG's first meeting with the Airspace review Team 28 October
Tunbridge Anti Aircraft Noise Group
Bo Redeborn & Graham Lake Independent Airspace Review Team Destination Place, South Terminal, Gatwick Airport, West Sussex RH6 0NP 1st November 2015 by Post and email Dear Bo and Graham,
Flights over Tunbridge Wells
Firstly, many thanks for giving us your time last week, and allowing us the opportunity to deliver our concerns and those of many others in Royal Tunbridge Wells. As we explained in the absence of any formal representation from this town we have, albeit belatedly, set up this group to draw attention to the problems of overflying and to ensure, as far as we can, that the current horrendous nuisance caused by Gatwick is stopped.
This town is a Georgian gem with many splendid buildings and green spaces – there are over 300 acres of parks and commons within the town envelope. It has little, if any, heavy industry, a large part of the economy relies upon tourism. The 4.5m visitors every year deliver about £241m per annum, about 30%, to the local economy. Much of the tourism relates to the history and architecture of the town. More than 70% of the Borough of Tunbridge Wells lies within the High Weald, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Tunbridge Wells used to be a tranquil delight until the low level noisy flights following the revised flight path started in 2013. Please note that the historic Pantiles and High Street plus most of Georgian buildings are to the west side of town and therefore most heavily overflown.
The demographic profile in 2011 showed an average age in the town to be 40, approximately the same as the UK overall. However, this is changing, anecdotal information from Estate Agents advise that there is an increase of younger buyers with families seeking to move away from London to the arcadian delights of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The current town population is about 56,000, with 112,000 in the Borough, but this will change over the next few years, currently approximately 900 houses are under construction, with a further 4,000 required by 2026 to meet Government targets, so the anticipated population will grow by 12 to 15,000. The majority of the new houses will be in the town itself, to avoid developing the green belt. There will be more schools – two new ones are planned, one is about to be built, the other is in the planning stage. For all of these reasons Tunbridge Wells should be within an exclusion zone.
We are delighted you are still in “listening mode” and we note that you would like any further representations by the end of November in order to meet the publication date for your recommendations of 21 January 2016 – we further note you are committed to deliver on time. We were pleased to learn your intention to follow HMG requirements in that flights should avoid areas of large populations (such as Tunbridge Wells) and we are grateful to you for setting out in simple terms the proposal for three flight paths to take planes at least 2nm away from the edges of town.
However, we are ignorant of the expertise needed to understand the complexities of flight path planning etc, so would you kindly confirm your outline proposals so we may understand better the process. Our understanding is that a return to the flight paths prevailing before 2013 is not appropriate, but that in your view there should be three intersection points for the ILS at distances (from Gatwick) of 7nm, 11nm and 14nm. If the last could be at 15nm would this reduce the noise footprint and cause less nuisance for Tunbridge Wells?
We also discussed the relative heights of aircraft in the arrivals phase. Tunbridge Wells is a town of hills, the highest is Frant Road at 481 feet – so approximately 3,500 feet below planes, which currently overfly down to 4,000ft but are not infrequently below this. You suggest that the planes would be at 5-6,000ft at the point nearest to Tunbridge Wells on the 3degree Continuous Descent Approach and that, coupled with the revised paths, this should substantially reduce the noise. However, we are under the impression that achieving a 3degree CDA descent is likely to require the use of aerodynamic devices, and these can themselves generate significant noise – offsetting the height advantage. Perhaps you could advise us on this.
The further improvements to aircraft design will help but this is going to take some considerable time. Incidentally, as I draft this letter, flight U28904 is overhead at 4,022 ft (on Flightradar 24) and can be clearly heard over the sound of the radio and within a double glazed room.
Mitigation of noise by flying higher and avoiding the populated areas must be the aim if the Government requirements are to be followed. Minister Goodwill stated the UK government aviation policy in 2013 “…….our overall policy is to limit and, when possible, reduce the number of people in the UK who are significantly affected by aircraft noise” and “that in most circumstances these routes (near airports) should avoid densely populated areas as much as possible”. Gatwick’s current operating policy flouts both requirements, and the problem will worsen over the next ten years.
We look forward to continuing discussions with you if possible, but your initial replies and comments would be much appreciated.
OTHER MEETINGS PLANNED
Tues, 1 Dec at 6-30pm: Camden Centre: TWAANG MEETING for Residents.
Purposes: To discuss whatever issues arise from the Airspace Review Meeting with Greg Clark. To find out how supporters would like to see TWAANG develop. To get some further ideas on what we can all do.
It would be good to have all residents groups represented so please try to make sure that your Residents’ Association know about it.