Aircraft Noise in Our Area

From Neil Sanders

Background: We suffer from the noise of aircraft coming in to land at Heathrow and at London City Airport.  Flights into Heathrow (like Gatwick and Stansted) are regulated by the Government, but flights into London City are controlled by Newham Council as part of the planning permission for the airport.

Aldebert Terrace is lined up with the northern runway at Heathrow and as traffic has increased over the years the noise has got worse both directly because there are more planes, and because with more planes, they have to join the glide path earlier, so they all come along Aldebert Terrace instead of peeling into the glide path somewhere around Barnes.  Planes normally land and take off into the wind, so we get the Heathrow planes when there is a west wind.  However, Heathrow continues to operate in this westerly mode when the wind comes from the east, provided that it is less than 5 mph.  This is called the “Westerly preference” and was introduced to protect west London from the noise of aircraft taking off.  (In the early days of flying, noise from take-offs was regarded as more important than noise from aircraft coming in to land.  However, aircraft climb much more steeply than they used to (say 15˚) so, though  take-off is noisy, it only affects a small geographical area. The international standard for landing aircraft to approach is 3˚, so they affect people much further away.)

London City was originally approved for use by a modest number of relatively quiet turbo-prop aircraft. However, Newham Council has more recently given permission for larger, much noisier, jets – and BA have devised clever schemes to get big planes in with very little fuel on board, so they can touch down for refuelling in Ireland and then fly to North America.  Obviously, as London City is much closer to us than Heathrow, the planes are much lower.

The organisation campaigning to reduce aircraft noise is called HACAN.  It’s based close to us, in Stockwell Road, and it’s very professional.  Its website is  The rest of this report is based on a briefing meeting they held on 23rd September.  (Do consider joining HACAN as an individual member – fighting the economic power of BAA and the airlines is an expensive business.)

The latest: Over the years, the primary objective of the Department of Transport has always seemed to be to foster the aviation industry, rather than to protect its victims.  However,Teresa Villiers, the new Aviation Minister seems much more receptive than her predecessors to addressing noise problems. She seems to have accepted that the noise envelopes from Heathrow and London City should be combined in assessing disturbance, rather than treated as completely separate issues!  This is a real step forward for us – when an east wind gives us relief from Heathrow traffic, we get more from London City.

Abandonment of the third runway at Heathrow was a massive step forward for us.  At the moment, there is a system of runway alternation: for half the day planes take off from the north runway and land on the south; for the other half it is reversed.  So for half the day they are coming along Aldebert Terrace, but at least for the other half the approach lines up with somewhere in the south of Clapham.  If there had been a third runway, we might have had flights over us all day.

Now that the 3rd Runway has been ruled out, HACAN are concentrating on the next achievable aims:

(i). The dozen or so arrivals between 4.20 and 6.00 cause misery to thousands of people, but BAA seem to argue that without them the whole UK economy would collapse!  HACAN have commissioned a serious study from a Dutch firm of economic consultants which should be published in early November, and will form the basis for their next campaign, which will be to stop these night flights.

(ii) HACAN are examining the way approach paths concentrate the noise over particular groups of people.  There may be scope for giving us predictable periods of relief on the lines of current runway alternation.

(iii) HACAN continues to push on the question of whether the 3˚ angle of glide slope needs to be sacrosanct – if planes could come in more steeply, they would affect fewer people.  (At our distance from Heathrow, on a 3˚ approach, planes should be at 3100 feet – but we know that some pilots like to approach the glide path from below, and there’s nothing to stop them coming in lower.)

Other points:

Heathrow at present operates at 99% capacity; there is agreement that this leaves too little flexibility if something goes wrong – Teresa Villiers would prefer 85-90%. If this is achieved, it would reduce the regular volume of noise and the extra disturbance we get, for example, when evening flights are all delayed by some incident.

There is no will in the Government for abandoning the Westerly Preference, so HACAN are not pressing this at present.

Newham Council’s recent granting of planning permission for expansion of London City operations  is being challenged in the High Court by local groups.  We shall wait and see.

Helicopters don’t seem to be comprehensively monitored. Only the police have to record exactly what they do. However, the majority of helicopter traffic is apparently private commercial use – advertising, taking corporate guests to Ascot and Henley, etc.– that surprised us.

HACAN plan a follow-up briefing meeting in November, after their economic report is published, to discuss the night-flights campaign.  That will be the most important next event for ASSA.  We will pass on the details of the meeting through our website and email list, and keep you in touch with the development of the campaign


  1. The local residents group that is taking Newham Council to the High Court over the expansion of London City Airport can be found at The amount of residents effected by aircraft noise is rapidly growing so well done to ASSA for highlighting their experience of it.

  2. One of the key things in airports like London City, is that when they apply for planning permission to increase the number of flights, it includes nothing about how the extra planes are going to get to & from the airport. That is left up to NATS after planning permission has been granted. As current routes are already conjested NATS have to come up with new one’s. Whole areas of residents find their lives suddenly blighted by aircraft noise & pollution, & with little chance of having any say as unlike Airport companies who have to apply for planning permission, NATS have little liason with the public & are very minimal in what they do have to do. Campaign groups John Stewart (HACAN) & Annie Griffin (Fight the Flights) are lobbying, but more is needed to get this changed so residents can have the right to their say on decisions that affect their lives so much.

  3. Just a note and apologies for posting here as I know it is not the appropriate place but I am trying to get in touch with Neil Sanders and Viv Aylmer regarding an accordian that belongs to them. If you could forward my e-mail to them I would appreciate it. I have tried other means but to no avail. Apologies again for using your site inappropriately, but I do hope you can help.

  4. hi,
    I ve been living in Hartington road SW8 2HB for 7 months. I ve noticed in these months quite many planes flying over the area but found it rather bearable. however today sunday 3rd of april has been the first time where I ve been driven insane by aircraft noise of planes flying over me every 20/30 seconds from 9 am till 7pm. Can you tell me more about it? I hope this was just a single event …I m really scared to wake up tomorrow with the same noise again…I think I will have to move house as I can get insane ;(((

  5. Dear Sir/Madam,

    I’m not sure whether you would be interested in what has been going on over our skies now for at least 9 years?

    Below are several E-Mails sent to various individuals, including David Miliband (leader of the Labour Party) and an article about these unmarked surveillance aircraft in the Telegraph, which have been flying around in circles, for 18 hours a day, over our estate for 9 years now.

    No one in authority, seems to know why these unmarked aircraft have chosen our area, for all this surveillance.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Demetrius Skortou



    Dear Mr Miliband,

    So, the government want to give even more powers to the security services to spy on anyone they like, how convenient. Terrorism has been a gift, to the intelligence services. The new laws, rules & regulations, have allowed these faceless people to intrude into all our personal lives, and the government doesn’t have to confirm nor deny whether someone is under surveillance either.

    The established order of this country don’t really care about acts of terrorism, if they did, the government would not allow so many people to pass through our border controls, so easy! Consider the E-Mail & the Telegraph article below. For 9 years I have sent over 300 e-mails to every newspaper, relevant government dept, Prime Ministers offices, Home Secretaries (that didn’t seem to last long every time I wrote to them about these mysterious unmarked aircraft) Southwark Council, Valerie Shawcross MP, James Cleverly (who sits on the London assembly) Liberty, HACAN – Clear Skies, CAA, NATS, Simon Hughes MP for Southwark/Bermondsey and the MOD.

    I have come up against a brick wall of silence over this matter. It seems no one in authority or the press & media are the least bit interested in these commercial passenger type aircraft, that are actually being used as surveillance aircraft.

    These unmarked aircraft/helicopters have been flying constantly around our estate of Tabard Gardens, SE1 for at least 9 years now, causing so much unnecessary levels of noise & pollution, from 6:00am until 11:00pm at night……….why?

    Yours Sincerely,

    Demetrius Skortou



    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I’m not sure whether this E-mail will interest you. However, after reading an article of a white unmarked jet flying over New York on 9/11.

    I thought you may be interested in the article I sent below to our Local Police Authority, at the London Mayors Office at Tower Bridge, South London. As you can see from the article below, the residents of a South London apartment block have had to endure the constant noise/pollution flights of these unmarked commercial passenger type aircraft, that have been flying around our estate, for nearly 9 years now. The British government have been keeping a tight lip about all of this.

    The question is, why would the intelligence services use unmarked passenger jets to just fly around in circles, for 18 hours a day? And why was their a similar white unmarked passenger jet, circling around New York City, the same day that both Twin Towers, were destroyed…by Al-Qaeda?

    Yours Sincerely,

    Demetrius Skortou


    The Metropolitan Police has secret spy planes capable of eavesdropping on mobile phone calls from the sky. The existence of the fleet of planes – each costing at least £3 million to purchase and hundreds of thousands more to operate – has never been publicly disclosed.

    The police have being using the planes since at least 1997. The disclosure of the spending, which is not detailed in official accounts, comes as the police face 20 per cent cuts in their budget, creating fears that hundreds of support staff will lose their jobs and the number of officers reduced. Despite the cuts the Met’s secret fixed wing aircraft fleet is still flying regular sorties over London from a base at Farnborough airfield, in Hampshire.

    The planes have apparently been fitted with secret surveillance equipment capable of intercepting mobile phone calls or eavesdropping on conversations. They are understood to be similar to surveillance planes available to MI5 which have been used in anti-terrorism operations and were used to help West Midlands Police track suspects connected to a plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier.

    One of the planes is a Cessna F04, which can carry up to 14 passengers or be fitted with specially integrated patrol mission packs. We have been asked not to disclose full details of the aircraft on security grounds. The twin engine craft are operated separately from the Met’s Air Support Unit which has three helicopters and flies hundreds of hours a month in support of police operations around the capital at a cost of £3 million a year.

    Last week a Metropolitan Police spokesman refused to discuss its use of the fixed wing aircraft but insisted it has gone through a “full” procurement process. However members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which scrutinises the force’s spending said they had never been told of the existence of the aircraft. According to Civil Aviation Authority records, the aircraft is registered to a firm called Nor Leasing.

    There is no trace of the firm on any other official record and its business address registered with the CAA is actually a branch of Mail Boxes Etc, which offers a virtual office services and mail forwarding, in Surbiton, south-west London. Another Cessna was also previously registered to Nor Leasing at the same address and at another service address in Kensington, west London. In 1997 one of the original individuals listed as “trading as” Nor Leasing was John Carnt who at the time was a senior Metropolitan Police detective.

    Superintendent Carnt was the then head of the Serious and Economic Crime Group, which was set up to combat major fraud, money laundering and art and antiques thefts. The pattern of hidden spending is believed to have been established by Tony Williams, a former assistant finance director at Scotland Yard, who established a secret web of companies for use in specialist undercover operations. But Mr Williams also used the same techniques to steal millions of pounds from the force to set himself up as a bogus Scottish “laird”. Williams was accused of stealing more than £4 million from Scotland Yard. He was jailed for seven years in 1995.

    Metropolitan Police Authority member James Cleverly last night said he was totally unaware that the Met had any fixed wing aircraft.

    Mr Cleverly, who also sits on the authority’s counter terrorism and protective services committee, which examines the force’s covert work, said: “This is not something that I have been made aware of or have had the opportunity to scrutinise. “In the light of the tight financial situation we are facing and the cuts being imposed on the police service it is imperative that we examine any assets that could be construed as a ‘luxury’.

    “I would expect full disclosure of details of this to the MPA to enable us to examine whether it represents good value for money for the police service.”

    Mark Demery
    Head of External Relations
    020 7983 5769 07973 191 635
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    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I have written to the London Mayors Office, the Prime Minister & many other institutions/organisations, about these large & smaller unmarked aircraft/helicopters, that have been flying low, around in circles, over our estate, from 6:30 until 11:00pm at night, for nearly 9 years now.

    All I have encountered, is a government wall of silence, over this matter. How can these huge commercial type aircraft (which are obviously being used has spy/surveillance aircraft) be allowed to constantly wake local residents up, every day, for nearly 9 years? Exactly, how much has this really cost the British tax payers?

    According to a recent Telegraph article regarding these mysterious unmarked aircraft, the Met would only admit to just 3 aircraft, that they have been flying around London since, 1997. However, I have counted over 20 different types of unmarked aircraft/helicopters, including 4 main commercial type passenger aircraft, that have been used since 1997. they are; 2 x 727’s, 737, & a 747 passenger type planes.

    These particular aircraft are flying low over Tabard Gardens & toward London’s Heathrow Airport. However, these unmarked aircraft are not flying to Heathrow or any other airport, all they are doing, is just going around in circles, over our estate, for 18 hours a day. How in gods name can this be justified? Who is paying for all these aircraft to just fly around in circles, for 18 hours a day? I am not getting any answers, from any of you in authority.

    Who, within this government, gave authorisation for these noisy/polluting planes to fly around our estate, constantly waking up local residents, every day, including every weekend? With all the cutbacks, the Met Police are going to be facing (simply, because the Government/EU eventually want a smaller European type police force) massive cuts in their budget. How, therefore, can the government/intelligence services, justify this kind of lavish spending on these types of aircraft. Or, is it, that an American military organisation are mostly funding these costly surveillance procedures, that a local resident told me only the other day?

    I am writing to everyone in the media. I will not stop until I get some answers, from all of you within the government. I know the security forces have to protect our citizens from possible terrorist activities. However, can’t they just be satisfied with using just a couple of helicopters, packed with their eavesdropping equipment? Why are the intelligence services using these huge commercial type passenger aircraft, that are so noisy as well as create so much more unnecessary levels of pollution, over our estate? This is totally bizarre! Because of the unusual nature of this situation, we at Tabard Gardens Estate Community Residents, demand a proper public enquiry into this matter, for the first time in nearly 9 years, come April.

    I am also sure, the British people/taxpayers will & eventually get to know, exactly how much these hugely expensive, aircraft are costing & who in government, authorised all of this.

    Local residents, are sick to the back teeth of being woken up at early hours of the mornings, by these huge unmarked aircraft. All of this has become intolerable, to all the residents of Tabard Gardens. We will eventually be sending a letter, to her Majesty the Queen and the whole of the media. Quite frankly, the residents of Tabard have had enough.

    If these aircraft were genuine commercial type passenger aircraft, going into Heathrow, then we would just have to put up with it all. But, these unmarked planes (that are not even registered with the CAA nor The NATS) are not commercial aircraft…….they are spy planes!

    I will await your earliest reply,

    Yours Sincerely,

    Demetrius Skortou

  6. Dear Sir/Madam,

    These unmarked planes/helicopters are still flying around our estate (Tabard Gardens SE1,). Although, mostly, they are flying at night, so those on the ground cannot see clearly whether these aircraft have any markings on them at all.

    Writing to officialdom about these mysterious planes has been a waste of time

    I’m afraid, unless, someone brings this matter up with the media/press, these noisy unmarked aircraft are going to continue to be a nuisance to residence in different parts of London, for many years to come

    Yours Sincerely,

    Demetrius Skortou

  7. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I
    find this topic to be really something which I think I would never
    understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  8. I live on Albert Square and have done for the last 2 years after purchasing my first home there in 2011. I am positive that the aircraft noise has become worse in this time. It’s gotten so bad that I literally cannot sleep from around 5am onwards on weekends and certain weekdays – I’m often woken up earlier than this if the helicopter that seems to fly directly above our house between two and 6 times a day decides to do another scan (as it did last night at 4am).

    For the first time in my life, I have been prescribed anti anxiety medication and sleeping pills from my doctor just to help me relax in my own home. I only take this medication while at home and it is 100% due to the constant assault on my senses by the never-ending stream of aircraft flying directly above our house.

    My partner and I are young, successful professionals looking to purchase a second property in London in the next year. I’m not saying this to brag or throw my weight around, but I’m just trying to make the point that there are thousands of people looking to invest and enjoy the area of Lambeth, not only for it’s location but for it’s fantastic communities and wonderful mix of people. But, given the choice, are these people really going to choose to live under a pre-runway for two airports? I would love to continue living in Stockwell or Vauxhall but since I physically cannot sleep, I am being forced to live, and invest, elsewhere.

    As I sit at my desk on a Monday morning, close to tears through sheer exhaustion, I would ask MP’s, and anyone with any regard for the community and area of Lambeth, to consider what I’ve stated above, very carefully. The constant noise from aircraft are making one of the most sought after, lucrative and convenient locations in the UK uninhabitable. I cannot see how this is economically viable to anyone except perhaps bosses at Heathrow who don’t have to deal with the consequences.

    At this point I don’t feel as though anything is being done about this and don’t see anything changing for the better any time soon. If anyone has any updates or advice on this issue then please do share as, aside from moving home, I’m not sure what to do next.


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