Residents living underneath Heathrow’s flight path are hoping to end night flights, saying they “dread going to bed” because of the noise from planes landing and taking off.
The Department for Transport is proposing to continue allowing flights to land and take off from the airport between 11.30pm to 6am until at least 2024.
But campaign groups are calling for the government to ban flights from the busy London airport at night because it is affecting sleep and wellbeing of residents.
Bridget Bell, who lives in Walworth, said: “The impact on my quality of life has been enormous. My sleep is disturbed and I find myself tearful at work and with friends through sheer exhaustion.
“I dread going to bed. I sometimes dread leaving work, knowing that my haven of a home is now just an unquiet scenario of ceaseless plane activity.
“Five hours sleep combined with the endless whine of planes between 4.30am until 11.30pm is sheer hell.”
Anne Roache, from Camberwell, also said that the noise wakes her up in the early hours of the morning.
She said: “I have double glazing and I still get woken at 4.30am and then kept awake for ages anticipating the rumbling approach of the next aeroplane building up to a loud screech overhead and then counting the seconds between the whine of its engines dissipating and the rumble of the next craft approaching.
“We have always had planes over Camberwell but in recent years they have got louder, lower, earlier, and more constant.
“Whilst I recognise that other parts of London may have it worse – the policy of concentrated flight paths mean people like us who live under them suffer longer and more intensely with both Heathrow and City planes.”
The current restrictions allow 5,800 take-offs and landings at Heathrow a year between 11.30pm and 6am. There is also a noise quota in place.
Research by the World Health Organisation has found that sleep disturbance caused by the sound of aircraft can have adverse health impacts on communities below flight paths.
The Department for Transport is holding an online consultation for their proposal to extend the current restrictions to 2024.
They are also planning to ban night flights for aircraft that is classed as QC4 – meaning it is louder than 96 decibels.
Campaign groups Plane Hell Action South East and No 3rd Runway Coalition are urging residents to respond to the consultation with their experiences.
The current lockdown and reduction in air travel has come as a welcome respite for some people.
Dan Scorer, a 42-year-old charity worker from Brockley, said: “Having been working from home throughout lockdown the reduction in plane noise has provided real peace during a time of great emotional stress for us all.
“I’ve been able to sleep with a window open and not be woken at 5am, and join work calls with windows open without the constant interruption of plane noise. Parks have been quiet and restful to walk in, and birdsong a wonderful background rather than the roar of aircraft.
“It reminds me why I moved here 12 years ago, before aircraft descended unannounced and with no consultation on airspace changes.”
Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition:”Overflying the most densely populated residential region in the country, Heathrow’s night flights have caused misery and associated health issues for decades and are one the many local reasons why expanding the airport fills so many with dread.
“Even if the current 6.5 hour moratorium on night flights were properly observed, it’s inadequate because children and rest of us need more sleep than that.
“But with the time calculated from when planes leave and dock at the terminals, it’s not even that, because planes are still waking up residents half an hour after departing terminals, and overflying their bedrooms half an hour before arriving. And even during the remaining 5.5 hours, a certain number of night flights are permitted on a quota system, despite only one noise event being required during what remains of the night to make it a sleepless one”.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “The current consultation aims to ensure that any potential for noise pollution resulting from night flights is balanced out by the positive economic benefits and jobs generated for the local area. We welcome all responses to the consultation.”
A spokeswoman for Heathrow airport said: “Night flights form an essential, although very small, part of Heathrow’s operations and are an important contributor to the economic benefits the aviation sector provides.
“Our night-time operations are already heavily restricted by the government, and this is set to continue with the new proposals. The government is currently consulting on their proposal to maintain the restrictions and we will be responding to their consultation in due course.”
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