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Tuesday May 22nd 2018

Gatwick Airport Complaints Handling Policy.


A criticism that your Parish Council has made in the past of Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) is in relation to its previously stated policy that it would only record 1 complaint per household per day.  We are told that that policy has now changed and that GAL will “register, acknowledge and, where appropriate, investigate all complaints received.”

Aircraft departing Gatwick must follow flight paths known as Noise Preferential Routes (NPRs) up to a height of 3,000 or 4,000ft which were set up by the Department of Transport in 1968 and designed to avoid over flight of built up areas.

We are told that NPRs can only be changed by Government; they are corridors 3km wide and whilst an aircraft need not remain in any particular position within this “swathe”, we are told the CAA is currently insisting that aircraft should fly the centre line of a swathe.  However, the disturbance caused by aircraft noise in Bletchingley may be as a result of aircraft flying closer to the northernmost limit of a swathe, known as Route 3 (SAM3P, KENET3P).

As many are no doubt aware, aircraft take off and land into the wind.  From my own observation,  in the last 18 months when aircraft are departing in an easterly direction aircraft that then need to make a left turn towards the west were sometimes flying directly over the village, which is just out with the NPR swathe for such a departure.  I believe there has been an increase not only in the percentage of flights taking off to the East (because of a greater predominance of easterly winds) but also in the number of westward destinations now flown from the airport (eg Norwegian Airlines to North America, British Airways to southern states of North America and Virgin to such destinations as Havana and Montego Bay).  Figures produced by GAL in November 2016 show that the predominant destinations by far of long haul routes flown from Gatwick are westward.

Whilst Gatwick experienced a reduction in passenger numbers to a low of 31,348,114 in 2010 (from a previous high of 35,168,306 in 2007), that number has now risen to 42,000,000 and whilst some of this increase has been taken up by the use of aircraft with larger passenger capacity, some can be attributed to new routes being flown.

GAL have now introduced the Casper system to record aircraft departures and arrivals at the airport showing the route of every aircraft using the airport.  This can be viewed on line – to see it simply google “lgw casper”.  The screen for casper is approximately 20 minutes behind actual time, meaning that if one hears loud aircraft noise and records the time one can see the offending aircraft’s route on screen approximately 20 minutes after the actual noise occurrence.  Hovering over the aircraft gives you the operator, the type of aircraft, its height and destination/airport of departure.  It is useful, I find, to have Gatwick’s departure board “bookmarked” so that planes heading westwards can be readily identified.

A complaint can then be made on the casper system, which is now the central and main mechanism for registering noise complaints at Gatwick.  I cannot emphasise strongly enough the need for individuals to complain directly to Gatwick, with as much information as possible (using the casper system means that complaints can be very accurate).  If you do not have access to the internet complaints can still be made by letter to GAL’s postal address.

As a result of feed- back received from various consultations (and your Parish Council responds to every consultation), Gatwick last year set up a Noise Management Board to look into the problems created by arriving aircraft.  That Board’s brief has now been widened to include noise from departing aircraft and the first meeting that includes the widened brief will take place in January next year.

Most airports in the UK are required to have a Consultative Committee on which various public bodies and their communities likely to be affected by the airport’s activities are represented.  GATCOM is the Committee for Gatwick and Tandridge District Council’s representative on that Committee is Cllr Ken Harwood, the TDC Councillor for Felbridge.

The PC can’t act if we are not told of parishioners complaints.  I would ask, therefore, that you inform the PC, via the generic  e-mail address, about complaints lodged with Gatwick – providing the same information that has been provided to Gatwick.  We can then analyse these and make a comprehensive complaint to Gatwick.  My perception (though it may be wrong) is that different parts of the village experience different “noise events” in connection with Gatwick.

We are expecting a Department of Transport Consultation any day now on Night Noise and the Parish Council will respond to the same.   Consultations of this nature can be viewed on line and responded to via the same medium.

Patricia A Glenn

Parish Councillor with responsibility for Transport