Gatwick Airport chiefs have announced they are expanding the airport's noise insulation scheme and making it the most innovative of any airport in Europe. The airport this week said the new scheme will cover more than 1,000 more homes across Surrey, Sussex and Kent. The extended noise insulation programme will roll out from April 1.
The homeowners covered by it will be able to apply for up to £3,000 towards double glazing for their windows and doors, as well as loft insulation. The announcement means that more than 40% more homes will be protected from noise than are covered with the old scheme. The major changes to the scheme are two-fold – firstly, the noise boundary for the scheme has increased by using a lower level of noise from 66 Leq to 60 Leq as a baseline, with the boundary line drawn flexibly to ensure entire roads and communities are included, and secondly, the noise contour boundary has been drawn along the flight paths by 15km to both the east and west of the airport. The east and west boundaries being expanded by 15km each way from the point of aircraft touchdown means the scheme will cover a significantly larger area at each end of the runway, where local people suffer from noise from approaching aircraft. Leq is a measurement used to express the average sound level over a 16-hour, 92-day summertime average.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: “We are not aware of any other airport in the world offering a scheme of this magnitude.“ The spokesman said: “Crucially, the scheme takes into account both the increased sensitivity people have towards noise levels, as well as the frequency of how many times they might be overflown.
“If the new scheme is taken up by all eligible households in the Gatwick area, it would cover around 2,000 homes.”
He said: “ As a comparison, if the same scheme was applied to Heathrow it would have to cover around 70,000 homes due to the fact aircraft have to overfly densely populated areas of London. “A similar scheme at Heathrow would extend to Windsor in the west and Putney in the east, covering landmarks such as Windsor Castle and Kew Gardens.”
The impact of both the level and frequency of aircraft noise on local communities is a critical issue for the Airports Commission’s assessment of the Heathrow and Gatwick runway proposals. Gatwick’s noise impacts are significantly lower than at Heathrow. Gatwick has stated that with a second runway there, the number of people impacted by noise would be up to 11,800. Chiefs have pointed to the Civil Aviation Authority's annual noise contours as showing this as being equivalent to less than 5% of the people Heathrow impacts today.
Gatwick has also cited the Draft Aviation Policy Framework Consultation of July 2012 as showing Heathrow currently impacts more people than all of the other major European airports combined, and under current expansion plans more than 700 additional flights could use the airport each day. Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick chief executive officer, said: “The leadership position we have taken on aircraft noise today shows the importance we attach to our local community as we continue to compete and grow from a single runway, but also as we plan to build a second. “ Mr Wingate said: “We understand that the public’s tolerance to noise is much lower than it was, which is why we are now extending our noise insulation scheme to cover the 30km flight path east and west of the airport.
“It is crucial that the UK has a deliverable, quick and affordable solution to where the next runway will be.”
He continued: “Gatwick can give the UK the economic benefits it needs at an environmental cost it can afford. “The role of local communities is critical and must not be overlooked. As Heathrow starts to consult its local communities about a third runway they should break their silence about noise and think seriously about following our lead.” Gatwick cited independent noise expert Dr Ian Flindell, who said: “Extending the boundaries of Gatwick’s new noise insulation scheme to include more people at lower sound levels is a very innovative departure from existing practice, and demonstrates a huge commitment to the surrounding community.”
He said: “It appears to be among the most generous of similar schemes I have seen across other European airports and possibly worldwide. “Aircraft noise can be a very serious issue for many people living near airports, and anything that the airport can do to mitigate this problem is entirely worthwhile.” Gatwick offered all local households eligible for the previous scheme the opportunity to comment and feedback on it before designing the new scheme, as well as local authorities and Gatwick’s consultative committee GATCOM.
The airport will write to every household eligible under the new scheme in advance of April 1, to outline the process for applying for the scheme.