09:00AM, Friday 19 February 2021
The pandemic has seen a drop in the number of passenger planes flying over the borough – but residents still face just as much disrupted sleep due to changes in the industry.
In a meeting of the aviation forum on Thursday evening, councillors discussed the recent changes being made at Heathrow and in the industry in general.
The Royal Borough’s community protection lead, Daniel Bayles, told the forum that British Airways has retired its noisy Boeing 747-400 from passenger flights, which could be heard as far away as Fifield.
The noise from the new, quieter craft would stretch less far, up to Old Windsor.
However, several attendees at the forum highlighted that this would not mean that the noisier aircrafts would no longer be used.
“An aircraft at the end of its life as a passenger carrier has normally got about another 25 years on it for freight,” said Councillor Neil Knowles (Old Windsor Residents Association, Old Windsor).
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in freight flights, taking up the slots that would normally be reserved for passenger travel.
A report showed that plane noise levels at night in Dedworth, Windsor, Datchet, Old Windsor, Wraysbury and Horton exceed the 40 decibels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mr Bayles suggested that the forum should press the Department for Transport to remove current exceptions in the rules that allow noisy aircraft to take off at night, and also to lay out clear guidelines for when ‘night’ begins and ends.
In opposition to the WHO, Heathrow defines night as 11.30pm to 6am – leaving only six and a half hours.
Mr Bayles also recommended that the Royal Borough's public health needs assessment identified aircraft noise as an issue, which it currently does not – weakening the aviation forums' stance.
The meeting also discussed how airspace modernisation could worsen noise levels.
Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot & Sunninghill) said this was ‘potentially just as big a threat as the third runway’ because current plans could concentrate noise over narrow area.
Heathrow Airport was given the green light to seek planning permission for a third runway in December after the Surpeme Court overturned a ruling that the development was unlawful.
“We live in an area of intense housing problems and space for business activity which would make Heathrow a totally unviable site for expansion,” said Old Windsor parish councillor Malcolm Beer.
“We are already far too congested and it should not be considered.”
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