Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jet vs Propellor: Greenwich Council's Failure

As we've documented before Greenwich Council are the only neighbouring council who continue to blindly support London City Airport expansion. However as we revealed some time ago, their support is based on absurd data and a report of errors by the planning officer which clearly showed that he had little or no understanding of the environmental impact of aircraft noise on the residential areas that Greenwich allow to continue to be built beneath the flight paths. Greenwich Council appear to have based their decision to support on noise data taken from STATIONARY ACTIVITIES ON THE LCY RUNWAY, EVEN THOUGH THE RUNWAY IS NOT IN THE BOROUGH OF GREENWICH! But let's just explain the background a little more:

Two years ago local councillor for Thamesmead Moorings and deputy head of the council Cllr Peter Brooks, assured a local resident that if they could provide the evidence that his officer had advised them incorrectly that he would get the issue sent back to the planning committee. The evidence was provided but a few weeks later the resident received a letter saying that the complaint was going to be forwarded to Newham Council to be dealt with. Once again, Greenwich Council were not willing to face the facts nor take responsiblity for their officer making a huge error in their planning report and recommendations to the planning committee.

The Greenwich Planning officer recommended to support the expansion of LCY. On looking through his report, it seemed apparent that not all of the information had been available to Greenwich, or that it had not been fully grasped by the officer as we found some serious errors/understanding in his report. The officer clearly believed, and continues to, as does the council on his advice: that propellor planes are noisier than jets. How silly is that!!

The LCY annual categorisation report, indicating that props are quieter than jets, has been forwarded to Greenwich on more than one occasion and yet with no response which addresses the error of the officer and how this clearly would have skewed the premise of his recommendations to the planning committee. From independent noise monitoring in Greenwich a jet from LCY is a minimum of around 10 dbs louder than a prop when it flies overhead. Most props are around 72-76 dbs as they pass, most jets are around 84 dbs and upwards.

Greenwich Council have continued to run with the line pushing London City Airport to replace all props with jets as is in their response to the LCY noise action plan. But this is the worst thing, as we know, and is rather embarrassing for Greenwich Council. The growth of the use in jets at LCY is already creating further noise disturbance than in the past, and yet Greenwich Council are saying 'we want more jets'.

We could not understand what had led the Greenwich officer come to such a conclusion and so an FOI was submitted to them. The response showed that the Greenwich Officer based his assumptions and recommendations on ground noise data on the runway itself!

This is quite extraordinary. It is not clear which document that Greenwich extracted this information from, and whether or not it was the most recent application. But the use of this data makes no sense at all - as the runway is not even in Greenwich, and the noise heard in Greenwich is not only noise from on the runway, but largely noise from the jets as they fly over on their low level flight path!

In a further FOI request and response, Steve Pallet from Greenwich Councils' Planning Department stated that almost 5000 properties in West Thamesmead would be covered by an expanded noise contour, inclusive of the 2000 additional dwellings that have been given outline planning permission to be built at Tilfenland's Tamesis Point , which is partially in the Public Safety (crash) Zone but which the landowners claim "promotes real quality of life"!. This is a huge increase on the current dwellings affected and you would have thought that Greenwich would have considered why, if jets are supposed to be quieter, that the contour was even growing to that extent with the proposed expansion. It just makes no sense at all, even from a laypersons point of view. Greenwich clearly were not aware that the increase in jets over props had already increased rapidly at the time of their decision. What did they think was making the noise contour grow?

Greenwich seemed to be under the impression that noise monitoring should continue as it had by LCY (they appeared to have no idea that no reliable readings had taken place by the airport for around 8 years) and that all the data they had been provided with was based on estimates.

Greenwich Planning board supported the expansion, we believe 1 vote tipped this, and it is arguable that if the accurate facts were presented, that the board had been alerted to the possible environmental and health impacts, and that no health impact study had been carried out in Greenwich, that the planning board outcome would have been very different.

Furthermore, in regards to the Noise Action Plan consultation run by LCY and Greenwich's response to it: You will note that Greenwich still continue to push for more jets to replace props as they believe this will be quieter! This offers no prospect to the homes in the noise contour having noise levels halted, nor reduced at all.

No health impact study was carried out for Greenwich, despite it being the only borough with homes in the public safety zone (crash zone) and the Greenwich PCT have confirmed in an FOI request that they were NOT consulted on this issue. This seems peculiar, particularly as there are such severe respiratory and cardiovascular health issues in the area. The mortality data by ward in Greenwich, received from the PCT, for Thamesmead Moorings (the ward nearest to the airport in Greenwich) shows that actual cardiovascular mortality is well beyond the expected baselines for men and women. This corresponds with the evidence on links between cardiovascular disease and excessive noise/pollution around airports.

We do not believe that any environmental impact study was carried out specifically upon Greenwich, though this may have been missed.

So, what next for Greenwich? They are in an increasingly embarrassing position whilst there is growing political focus on the impact of LCY expansion than ever before and the upcoming judicial review challenging the increase of flights. This is in addition to the boroughs around Newham all noticing an increase in noise from the increased use of jets, who have been more than vocal about this: how on earth does this bypass Greenwich Council? Ear defenders are perhaps given out to the planning committee?

Woudn't it be nice, and terribly democratic, if the leader of Greenwich Council, Cllr Chris Roberts finally did the right thing and got this issue fully reviewed within Greenwich? Perhaps they might consider getting some professional advice next time, rather than the seemingly amateur assessment that was made and passed as a recommendation to the planning committee. They might want to consider why their officer felt that it was appropriate to use stationary noise taken from the airport in Newham rather than look at the estimated projected noise contours that were to widely expand over Greenwich, and Tamesis Point. Those 120,000 flights have to fly over Greenwich, they don't simply land vertically onto the runway.

All documents referred to in this blog item are available upon request.