'Measure of airport noise is ineffective', inquiry toldBy Jack Sommers
June 04, 2010
THE way Farnborough Airport measures its planes’ noise is ineffective, a lawyer has argued at the inquiry into whether the number of flights there should almost double.
Simon Bird QC presented the argument to noise consultant Jeffrey Charles at the ongoing inquiry into whether the airport should get permission for 50,000 flights a year, up from 28,000.
Mr Bird is representing Rushmoor Borough Council, which has paid him and other legal and planning experts tens of thousands of pounds to defend its councillors’ decision to turn down TAG’s application for the extra flights last year.
He was cross-examining Mr Charles, who appeared as a witness for airport owners TAG.
In his written evidence, Mr Charles said the system generally used to measure noise from aircraft is an equation based on flight movement and engine noise which produces a figure for the decibels for a specific area.
The inquiry heard that the equation did not take into account subjective things such as people with sensitive hearing, whether it was a Sunday or bank holiday or other factors.
Mr Charles’ eveidence said 50,000 flights a year would only lead to an increase of two decibels for those homes where the figure is currently 57dB or more. That figure of 57dB is defined as the level at “community annoyance” kicks in and the planning process must assess the impact of noise.
Mr Charles wrote that the 2dB increase to these homes was “less than that which is perceptible by most people even if it occurred in a short space of time”.
During cross-examination, Mr Bird said this did not account for different numbers of flights on different days or for the intermittent nature of the noise people under the flight path endured.
Mr Bird said: “If my speaking is disturbed 45 or 46 times a day and the next day it’s disturbed 182 times, the noise contour doesn’t notice the difference. It’s not credible is it?”
Mr Charles replied his system was the one used to assess noise in planning applications.
“There’s a trade off between the number of events and how noisy they are,” he said. “These are the tools I have to determining the impact of noise.”
He added he was “as sure as I’ve ever been in 40 years” about his judgement.
Mr Bird also said the contour did not take account that some people were more susceptible to noise and noise was more disturbing at different times. “People are far more concerned about noise in the evening,” he said.
Mr Charles’ evidence also said that, if there were 50,000 flights a year at the airport, 561 homes would be in 57dB bracket, as opposed to 67 at the moment. The worst affected area would be homes on the east side of Farnborough Road near the Farnborough College of Technology.
Mr Charles also estimates that Knellwood Residential Care Home in Canterbury Road would reach the 57dB threshold if there were 50,000 flights a year.
His report concluded that the noise from this number of flights would be within the ‘noise budget’ defined for the airport in 2000 as it went from military to civilian use.