Action plan creates noises on both sides of the Stansted Airport divide

PLANNERS at Stansted Airport have been accused of “totally ignoring” responses to a 16-week public consultation on how to tackle airport noise over the next five years.

Members of the Stop Stansted Expansion group are “appalled at the inadequacies” of an action plan, which contains 20 new measures, released this week by owners BAA.

However, the airport’s head of health safety and environment, Dr Andy Jefferson, has defended the company and said they are “setting benchmarks” for airports in the UK.

The Noise Action Plan has been approved by DEFRA and the DfT and contains measures to improve the lives of residents living around the hub, including:

• An increase in the use of modern aircraft, whilst phasing out the old by 2015.

• Fines doubled for all off track flying (eg. �500 to �1,000 for night infringements).

• Further safeguarding of towns such as Stansted Mountfitchet, Bishop’s Stortford and Sawbridgeworth.

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The plan also makes a commitment to urge airlines into a new way of landing and taking off which both involve a continuous descent or ascent.

Dr Jefferson explains: “It is more efficient and aircraft will be at higher points over towns. Already 90 per cent of our aircraft employ this technique. It is quieter because the engine settings are much lower.

“A continuous climb at take off is a bit like a train passing you at a station. It is better for residents because the aircraft can reach cruising altitude quicker.”

But Carol Barbone, SSE’s campaign director, launched a stinging attack: “Having reviewed the contents, after a two year wait since the consultation, we are appalled.

“It will come as a great disappointment to those who contributed to the consultation in the hope that the eventual plan would lead to positive action for the future to reduce noise impact.

“BAA’s proposals will make little difference and as such the document is not worthy of the name action plan.”

Mrs Barbone cited that half of respondents asked for an independent noise monitoring operation – but she said BAA had ignored them, acting as “judge, jury and policeman.”

SSE said the plan ignores helicopter noise and called for a ban on using reverse thrust unless in an emergency or exceptional weather. “Other airports do both of these, like Copenhagen - so why not Stansted?” Mrs Barbone said.

Dr Jefferson understands the doubts and admits that the public find it hard to trust airport data, but added: “Uttlesford District Council used to audit all of the complaints and noise data. Now, we have set up a new working group to deal directly with environmental issues.

“It includes parish and town councillors. Residents can make issues known through those channels and get action progressed.

“We look forward to continuing this work with the community. For over a decade Stansted has been at the forefront of pro-actively monitoring and working with airlines to tackle noise, regularly going beyond the requirements and best practise.

Since 2005 the number of noise complaints has declined by over 15,000 per year, but SSE said that is because simply “people are giving up.”

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