Big Increase in Aircraft Noise Nuisance – Take Action Now!

by Mike Ward on 30 July, 2014

If you live in The Holmwoods, Beare Green, Capel or parts of Brockham, Betchworth & Leigh, you will have been only too aware of the increase in flights and noise overhead since the start of the year. For many of us, we have gone from having occasional flights, but not enough to be much of a nuisance, to a situation now where at some times most days we have a stream of departing aircraft overhead every 2-3 minutes. It is also not uncommon to hear planes after midnight or before 5am.

What is causing this?Flight path Map for website

The increase in disturbance is caused by a change to departures when the airport is operating with take-offs to the west (70% of the time). Aircraft now make wider turns than before and therefore go further west and north (see map) before heading off to their destination to the north or east of Gatwick (planes going south or west generally take a different route which is also controversial – you may have seen the protest signs near Warnham – but this is not covered here). Part of the new route lies outside the quite wide corridor (known as Noise Preferential Route –NPR) that has existed for many years – see grey area on map outside the corridor which is between the black lines. Therefore some people are newly affected who were not affected before.

The problem is worse for those who are affected because Gatwick has introduced new flight paths that concentrate the flights into a much narrower corridor. So if you are near that narrow corridor you will be getting significantly more flights overhead than before. Previously, the wider corridor meant there was more spreading of flights.

Why are Gatwick doing this?

They say the narrow corridor enables them to operate the airport more efficiently by taking advantage of the ability to use modern satellite navigation which is much more precise and enables routing to be followed more exactly. However, the benefit to the airport seems very small, 2-5 extra take-offs per hour, and then only at peak departure times when there are not as many landings to fit in.

They also say that modern aircraft need to turn less tightly than older aircraft. However, this is disputed, even by some pilots.

None of this appears to justify the severe disruption to the lives of several thousand people, many of whom will have chosen to live where they do (and paid the appropriate price) precisely because it was previously largely free of aircraft noise.

Why haven’t I been consulted about this before?

Last year Gatwick undertook a consultation about the NPR’s. This was highly technical and contained no specific routes changes. They were told by Gatwick Airport Conservation Campaign (GACC) and others that this was unsatisfactory and needed to be followed by a further specific consultation with maps and proposed routes before any change was implemented. They were also told that the idea of disadvantaging a new group of people without compensation was unacceptable. These responses appear to have been ignored by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that gave them permission to go ahead.

However, a small part of the proposed new NPR (the bit to the west and north referred to above) lies outside the boundary of the historic NPR. This means that, although they are currently allowed to use it, they have to consult on it. If this alteration were to be turned down, they would not be able to use the wider turns and would presumably be forced to revert to the previous pattern, at least to some extent.

What do I need to do now?

Respond to the consultation by 14 August

Feedback can be given using the feedback button on the website which will open up a questionnaire for you to fill in.  You can also email your response.

Alternatively you may post a response to:

Gatwick Airspace Consultation
Ipsos MORI
Research Services House
Elmgrove Road

You may want to read the consultation document before responding. However, it is 60 pages long and quite technical. If you want help in deciding how to respond, we support the advice provided by Betchworth Parish Council here. This is to respond “definitely not” to questions 5, 6 & 7. Their website also contains some useful links to get more information and suggestions on who to object to.

Please send us an email to let us know you have responded.

Complain every time you are disturbed

Please complain by emailing or fill in their web form. You can also phone 0800 393 070 (NB Not the number on Gatwick’s website that did not work when last tried).


Complain as often as you can. The airport is forced to log these complaints and report them to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). If the CAA is aware of high volumes of complaints, it may force Gatwick to think again.

Are there other issues?

Yes! Some of them would require a whole piece to themselves. However, some you might want to mention when responding are:

  • Population affected – Gatwick appears only to count people who are within the NPR, but there are serious effects along a much wider corridor.
  • The easterly departures (less relevant for Beare Green and Capel). These also fly a more concentrated route now.
  • The fact that easterly and westerly departures overfly largely the same people. This is very unfair but no doubt suits Gatwick because they have fewer people on their back.
  • Height – Gatwick are looking to shorten the NPR’s because modern aircraft can get to 4,000 feet quicker. But noise can be significant even when an aircraft is above 4,000 feet and Gatwick appear to pay no attention to this in their route proposals.
  • Respite – the consultation document discusses respite but this appears to be limited to night-time and arrivals only. Why not respite for departures as well and also during the daytime?
  • Night flights – these need to be reduced in number and made quieter. The proposals don’t deal with this issue.
  • Impact of substantial increase in noise in previously quiet areas – simple noise measurement does not reflect the degree of disturbance created when previously very quiet areas are suddenly regularly over-flown.
  • Extension of noise impact into an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)


Please email us. We’ll do our best to find an answer. However, this is very complex and we are not experts!

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