Elmbridge Council has come out against the expansion of Heathrow Airport amid concerns over air quality and noise disturbance.
At a meeting of the full council in December 2016, the borough’s representatives heard from Councillor Christine Elmer (Conservative, Walton South) who has led a task group looking into the local impact of the airport.
Cllr Elmer said her committee had considered a vast amount of data and it was vital the Council should take a view on expansion, particularly in light of the government’s recent announcement that it favours building at Heathrow, following a period of further consultation.
She added: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that noise is one of the most serious issues that our residents face. It is a problem in some parts of Walton, Weybridge, Esher and Cobham, but in particular for some parts in Molesey. Residents’ lives are literally being made a misery. They are struggling with noise late at night and early in the morning from 4.30am.
“Expansion at Heathrow would mean an additional 250,000 planes and amid claims that planes are becoming less noisy we know that Heathrow do not know the predicted flight paths yet, nor do they have a policy for precision navigation. So residents are rightly concerned that extra planes means extra noise and extra disturbance.”
Cllr Elmer told the chamber at the Civic Centre, Esher, that larger planes are flying lower than ever before in Elmbridge and there are no guarantees that this will desist. She continued: “It cannot be right for residents, as one who wrote to me this week said, to have to go to bed wearing earmuffs.”
Cllr Elmer set out a position, which was later adopted by the council, that the borough will favour the fairer policy of dispersal of aircraft noise (over a wide area) rather than concentration over fewer homes. She also called on the government to implement a proposal in the Davies Report (into airport expansion) for an independent noise regulator – a position supported by our MP Dominic Raab – and for the airport to give assurances it will meet EU air quality targets in full. She quoted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) who declared air pollution a “public health emergency”.
Finally, Cllr Elmer dismissed the airport’s claims that 250,000 additional flights need not result in more road traffic: “I know that we will all take that with a pinch of salt,” she said.
Deputy leader of the Conservative group, Cllr James Browne (Cobham and Downside) said Heathrow is in the wrong place and in his view, Gatwick Airport offers a better choice for expansion.
He said: “When the prevailing winds are westerly it means the planes coming in to land overfly the City causing air and noise pollution for hundreds of thousands maybe millions of residents. There is a knock on effect on neighbouring areas such as ours and we have all received the heartfelt pleas from Molesey residents complaining of being kept awake at night.
“And then there's the traffic. Anyone who drives regularly between junction 10 and 16 of the M25, knows how appallingly clogged up this main arterial route can be on a routine basis. It is not just the confluence of three motorways and the A3 with the main London ring-road, Heathrow’s very location contributes massively to the congestion.”
Cllr Simon Foale (Conservative, Weybridge St George’s Hill) adopted a more pro-airport stance pointing out that Heathrow had itself called for a noise regulator and were being “as proactive as they possibly can”. He added: “I do acknowledge that this council does need to make a view and its position known and I think either position one could support with the evidence, I just think that I find myself favouring the building of Heathrow.”
Cllr Stuart Selleck, who leads the Residents Association and Liberal Democrat coalition which runs the council, had opened the debate by voicing frustration at “how impervious Heathrow seems to be” to pressure over aircraft noise, and declared: “We must find a way to bring teeth to these arguments to put Heathrow really on the rack because they are just not listening to residents.”