Thursday, August 27, 2009

Greenwich Council, and a Planning Officer Who Just Can't Get the Facts Right

Residents who chose to attend Greenwich Council's Planning Committee last night found themselves presented once again, with yet still unchanged inaccuracies in Mr Neil Willey's planning report on London City Airport. This really is unprofessional, particularly as these serious inaccuracies were raised with the deputy leader last May.

It is really quite surprising that the planning officer fails to realise that propeller planes are quieter than jets and as a result supports the increase in jets, the very item that causes his borough misery. Has Mr Willey simply copied a LCY press release we wonder?

It's worth pointing out that jets are category a, and if you look at the LCY noise categorisation report, there they are at the top of the tree of noise nuisance for the communities. A is the noisiest of planes to operate at LCY, b being, well quieter! But don't worry, Mr Willey continues to report that the jets are quieter....of course, that's why the noise contour has expanded to include an estimated additional 47,000 residents isn't it!?

But don't worry residents of Greenwich, Cllr Chris Roberts, Leader of the council assured us all that with the agreement they intend to go into with London City Airport, if LCY breach ANY of the section 106 conditions they will legally challenge them. This was confirmed directly to one of the residents questioning the councils objectives. Could we really expect Greenwich to legally challenge LCY for breaches, after 8 years of Newham Council consistently ignoring the illegal breaches, by the lawbreakers London City Airport? We suspect that with LCY's dodgy record, that it won't be long before Greenwich are put to the challenge on this, so just watch this space.

Here's some of the issues raised to the deputy leader of Greenwich Council in May, which they have failed to be addressed.
A formal complaint is now being pursued over Greenwich Councils' maladministration as part of the Newham/Greenwich Local Government Ombudmsan's LCY investigation.

Dear Cllr

Following on from our meeting discussing the London City Airport expansion, and the lack of factual information available to LB Greenwich at the time of making a decision at the planning committee, the following information and points are for your and the planning departments consideration.

The planning officers report, by Mr Neil Willey:

1. The officer stated that the bigger jets that are going to be used are quieter than the propeller planes. This is factually incorrect, and can be seen in the noise categorisation report attached. Propeller planes are approximately 10db's quieter than the jets which operate at the airport and they are duly categorised as a 'b' in the report, confirming that they are indeed quieter. Please see page 7 of the 2007-2008 annual categorisation report to see this.

2. Asserted that monitoring of noise levels should continue: The officer appeared not to be aware that no actual reliable noise readings had been consistently taken by London City Airport since 2000. The noise contours upon which he was given, and that he made his recommendations upon were estimated on data from 2000 (when the airport was operating very differently to now) and supplemented by technical data from aircraft manufacturers handbooks.

Therefore it is felt that the officer was not aware of the current full impact of noise and pollution on the community now, let alone in the future with the expansion of 50% more planes.

3. There was no statement of how many homes were in the Public Safety Zone in West Thamesmead. This does not appear to have been considered. Neither was it noticed that the PSZ map provided by RPS the airports consultants, failed to use the DfT methodology. This has the effect of making the map a minimum of 20-40% smaller than the correct methodology would produce.

4.There was no indication that 99% of properties in the areas most affected would NOT be entitled to noise mitigation.

5. There was no reference to the fact that no consistent and reliable air readings had been taken for 8 years - and therefore the full impact on residents could not be considered.

In a freedom of information request Greenwich planning department were asked the following:

Were the noise contours based on actual noise data?- Mr Willey the Greenwich Planning Officer answered no.

Had a PSZ map based on DfT methodology had been available? Mr Willey answered no.

Therefore Mr Willey recommend that the committee did not object, and his opinion was based on flawed and missing data. Accurate information was crucial to the consideration of the application. The Noise categorisation report 2005-2006 clearly admits that no actual reliable noise readings were taken for 8 years.

In addition the 2007-2008 report attached indicates that London City Airport has been exceeding it's 76,000 noise factored movements steadily since 2006. This is around the time that many of us first became bothered by the aircraft, and of course this was not helped by Newham approving a variation to the amount of planes that could go out on any weekday and NOT consulting us. The LCACC's graph indicates that noise factored movements have been as high as 91,000 and this is further supported in the 07/08 categorisation document.

One of the reasons stated for supporting the expansion was 'jobs' and yet there was no evidence available on how many Greenwich residents worked at the airport, though I cannot see any evidence of how many jobs were currently active when Mr Willey made his report. A report on the jobs is attached, this took almost a year to get access to. It is clear that London City Airport's claims of job creation are to be dealt with great caution, especially in absence of any evidence of the claims, and that they mix the directly employed workers with so called 'created' jobs.
[we have since found out that just 66 jobs have been created for Greenwich in over 20 years, 66 jobs for 47,000 additional residents to be affected by excessive noise levels, and be forced to live in a crash zone - that puts it into perspective.]

Another issue which was not considered by the officer was the effect of increased aviation noise and emissions on human health. Jet fuel contains many additives which are harmful to human health. There are clear connections between respiratory disorders, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and leukemia. In addition studies by Queen Mary's University and other well respected research institutions all indicate that aircraft noise affects children's development. This is particularly important in Greenwich, as the flight path affects schools in Thamesmead, and thousands of homes throughout the area up to the Bexley border. [We have since found that that no Health Impact Study was produced for Greenwich and Greenwich Council failed to address this, or indeed even notice. So much for having a planning officer who thoroughly goes through the documents and raises material concerns].

It is clear that items that should have been key to making an informed decision on this application, and how the expansion will affect the residents in Greenwich were not available.