Airport inquiry hears new round of noise argumentsBy Jack Sommers
June 17, 2010
ARGUMENTS about how annoying the noise of 50,000 flights over homes each year might be have continued at the Farnborough Airport inquiry this week, as an end to the proceedings looms.
Airport owner TAG - fighting to be given permission for 50,000 flights a year instead of 28,000 - has been arguing with Rushmoor Borough Council about how effective a system for measuring noise is.
According to the current system, the sound from the extra 22,000 flights would have a minimal effect on people and was within the ‘noise budget’ the council said the airport could not exceed.
TAG’s noise expert Jeff Charles took to the stand two weeks ago to present his analysis supporting plans for more flights.
This week, Rushmoor Borough Council’s noise expert Dani Fiumicelli was presenting his case, claiming that the method of measuring noise was effectively irrelevant to people who actually endure it.
According to the noise system, each property under the flightpath is assigned an overall decibel number, with 57dB as the definition of ‘community annoyance’.
This is roughly equivalent to a nearby car driving slowly and slightly louder than bird song, according to evidence put before the inquiry.
When the council’s lawyer Simon Bird cross-examined Mr Charles, he questioned how effective the system was, saying it did not account for the fact that the noise of planes from the airport was intermittent, meaning it interrupted people’s days rather than a continuous, less disturbing noise.
Mr Charles replied that he was using the tools he had been given to measure noise.
When Mr Fiumicelli took to the stand on Tuesday, John Steel, TAG’s lawyer, began by asking him about the reputation of noise consultants Hepworth Acoustic Ltd, which TAG has employed to argue its case.
Mr Steel asked: “It’s fair to say that they are competent consultants noise consultants?”
Mr Fiumicelli replied that they were an "established consultancy".
Mr Steel then said: “Isn’t it fair to say that if there were reason to doubt their system, it’s right they should give considerable weight to the consultancy’s conclusions?
“Isn’t it fair to say that if they found something that would be a cause of concern, they would record it?”
Mr Fiumicelli replied that he could not comment.
He was followed by the council’s second witness, Peter Forbes, who was testifying about the economic impact. He will be followed by town planner Robert Sellwood.
After all three have testified, Geoff Marks, the chairman of Farnborough Aerodrome Residents’ Association, will present his evidence.
The council is expecting members of the public to be able to address the inquiry next Wednesday (January 23).
Seventeen people have so far volunteered to speak and most will be assigned a morning or afternoon slot on that day.
When the inquiry is over, planning inspector David Richards will make a recommendation to the secretaries of state for Transport and Communities and Local Government for them to make a final decision.