Biggin Hill Noise Action Plan Review – Update from Committee meetings 18th & 19th October
May we start with a huge vote of thanks to all who came to one or both of the Council meetings this week. Once again, there could be no doubt about the level of support amongst residents for our campaign. We also realise that for one reason or another, not everyone was able to attend and we very much appreciate the messages of support that we received from you.
It was also clear that you have been writing to Councillors in great numbers and this was acknowledged several times during the Committee meetings which took place this week. All in all you have made an undeniable impression! Once again, THANK YOU!
This newsletter summarises the main points of discussion over the two meetings. The main debate took place at the Executive, Resources and Contracts Policy Development Scrutiny (ERCPDS) Committee on the 18th and the recommendations were endorsed with little further comment at the Executive Committee meeting the following evening.
What became clear as the meeting progressed was that Councillors do seem to be listening to the comments they have received from residents who live under the flight path for Biggin Hill Airport. Only one Councillor (Melanie Stevens, Biggin Hill, Independent) spoke to endorse the Noise Action Plan in its current form. All other Councillors who asked questions or offered comment echoed the feedback they have received from residents. This was across the political spectrum and not only Councillors whose wards are under the flight path.
The ERCPDS Committee resolved that the report received from BHAL, which is now available to the public, will be considered again at their meeting and the subsequent Executive Committee meeting in January 2023. This is now supposed to be the last time the NAP Review will be postponed. Whilst this delay simply extends the time that residents will have had to endure the effects of BHA’s operations, the reason given is that the Council wishes to know the outcome of the report by the CAA on the proposed new route which is projected to reduce the number of flights passing over residential areas by about 30% over the course of the year and is accepted by the Council as a “material consideration”. The Council has put pressure on the CAA directly and via local MPs to stick to their commitment to report back during the last quarter of this year. It was also noted by Councillors that this process has taken so long because BHAL were very slow in presenting their submission to the CAA in the first place.
The NAP which has now been submitted will be reviewed by the Council in January 2023 in the light of the CAA report. Importantly, however, this is now seen as the start of a further process which will create a revision to the NAP and the Council has stated that it will consult with residents during this process.
Many Councillors wanted this revision process to start as soon as possible because residents have waited so long for it. However, the decision was taken that it will definitely start in January regardless of whether or not the CAA’s report has been received.
The case was made at the ERCPDS Committee meeting for making the additional hours granted to BHAL in 2015 part of the negotiation as the NAP is revised. There was a general feeling that BHAL had not been a good partner in the deal that was done when the extension to their operating hours was approved. There is now a call for more detail about how BHA actually benefits the borough and for the documents which form part of the revision of the new NAP to be made available to residents so there is transparency in the process going forward. In short, it was recognised that there has been a loss of trust as far as residents are concerned and this needs to be addressed.
Environmental concerns were also mentioned and more vigilance about pollution arising from the airport is now firmly on the agenda.
So where do we stand now?
First and foremost, Flightpath Watch will go through the NAP which was presented for review with a fine tooth comb to make sure that nothing is allowed to creep in which cannot be undone when the revised NAP is produced. We will be seeking your support to continue your communications with your Councillors on these specific issues as they are identified.
Second, we are aware that not all of the detail that was discussed at the Committee meetings was reflected in the recommendations at the end of the meeting but we are comforted that Councillors have followed events over the past six years and are aware of what has gone wrong. Hopefully this will be reflected in their final considerations next January.
Our newsletters will keep you up to date with developments and concerns as they arise. Please pass on the information to your neighbours and friends. The issues listed in the flyer that accompanied the 15 October newsletter are still relevant, albeit analysis has been postponed, and can be found here if you no longer have a copy.
Our sincere thanks for your support so far. Please keep in touch with us and with your Councillors.