All noise and no action by Boris on aircraft noise

The Mayor making some noise but not helping to reduce it
One of my questions to the Mayor last month included one about noise issues.  This was on the back of over 500 reported complaints in Wandsworth about aircraft noise during the first phase of the “Operation Freedom” trials at Heathrow.  Noise is often thought of as the forgotten pollutant and in a vibrant, growing city like London, it is increasingly seen as a key issue affecting the quality of life; so our “soundscape” needs as much care and attention as out townscape or landscape! 
Yet you can see from the Mayor’s response to my question, that although he makes a lot of noise and claims to be concerned about this issue, he’s actually taken no action to tackle the issue.  For example, during this last term, he has failed to revise the Mayor’s Ambient Noise Strategy which is now 8 years old!  Such a step would have afforded the issue some strategic plan for London.  Instead, we are referred to a strategy which has now lived through two political terms without any revision.  In the meantime, issues like aircraft noise have grown to the detriment of residents across the whole of London as the complainants from Wandsworth signify.  It is also unlikely that issues relating to noise will be a priority for the Mayor in the next term. For instance, take a look at his response to a question put down by fellow AM, Mike Tuffrey about how he’ll develop one comprehensive environmental strategy, (which he’s required to do under the new Localism bill).  The answer basically is “watch this space”.The Mayor has a duty to consider the health and well being of Londoners and to produce a strategy for London on “ambient noise” which derives mainly from transport and industry.  Indeed the GLA Act requires him to produce a strategy for what is probably the UK’s noisiest city; though without any funds or powers allocated specifically to reduce noise, this will be a tough call.  When he asked for more powers from government at the start of his term, he failed to ask for any specifically on the noise front, for example relating to aircraft noise in Greater London.  If he’d done so, then he would have shown himself to be much more proactive in dealing with this issue. 
What London needs is a strategic plan to achieve consistency on noise thresholds across the whole of Greater London.  For example, both Heathrow & City airport have widely different noise mitigation schemes for residents which is just one area which needs to be addressed. A pro-active mayor can do something about this if he wanted.

2012 is a decisive year for aircraft noise sufferers because the government will publicise its draft aviation policy as well as consulting on a new night flight regime.  Some 28 per cent of all people in Europe affected by aircraft noise live under the Heathrow flight paths. That’s over 700,000 people according to the Civil Aviation Authority.  It’s not just Heathrow either.  City Airport is also considered to have more people disturbed by aircraft noise than Gatwick and Stansted.  So despite the imminent Government consultation, and the ongoing Heathrow trials, Boris’s muted response to this issue so far, means that he will be ill prepared or more simply not interested in tackling the problem of noise pollution.  With this in mind, it’s probably of little surprise that recently London Elects highlighted Cranford Ward with the lowest turn-out of 26.3 per cent in the last GLA election in 2008.  This ward is probably the most affected by aircraft noise pollution in London.  The London Assembly, Environment Committee has recently published a report: “Plane Speaking – Air & noise pollution around a growing Heathrow Airport” which highlights the environmental concerns around Heathrow as well as the discrepancies relating to noise thresholds which exist between Heathrow and City Airport.  An up to date, relevant and meaningful noise strategy may have incentivised the residents of Cranford to vote; unfortunately they’ve heard little from the Mayor about the issue of noise in their area and will most likely continue to get the silent treatment if Boris wins a second term.




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