Noise

On Tuesday morning, while packing for work, I sat in the hallway and cried. I was angry, I was frustrated, and I felt helpless. Charlotte saw my face and asked whether I was OK. I tried to explain how the constant noise from airplanes affects me, how it immediately causes a surge in stress levels, how that stress doesn't go away as long as the noise is there. The first thing I hear in the morning is not my children, it's airplanes. While making breakfast, airplanes. Turn on the radio, still, airplanes. While cycling with my son to the child minder, airplanes. While cycling to work, airplanes. Cycling home from work, airplanes. At the park with the kids, playing, airplanes. While bathing the kids, airplanes. Dinner, airplanes. TV, airplanes. Reading to calm down, airplanes. The last thing I hear before going to bed, airplanes. From 4.30am to 11.00pm, 18.5 hours a day, airplanes.

Charlotte is one of the lucky ones that can block out the noise. I cannot. The noise permeates everything I do, sometimes it's all I hear.

A month ago we moved .75 miles from a 2 bedroom flat in Herne Hill to a 3 bedroom house between Camberwell and Loughborough Junction. Herne Hill is located just south of Heathrow's southern runway approach. When I first moved in, I couldn't believe the noise, as soon as the noise from one aircraft subsided, noise from another started. It was only once I learned of the concept of respite and the daily north/south runway switch that I was able to cope. I knew that half of each day would be relatively quiet.

0.75 miles away, between Camberwell and Loughborough Junction, it's different. Respite does not exist here. The final approach to not just one, but sometimes 3 runways pass directly overhead. I didn't realize a .75 mile move could make such a difference.

Aircraft that approach Heathrow's southern runway fly directly overhead. Unfortunately, so do about half the aircraft that approach the northern runway. Only half of the aircraft that land on the northern runway use the direct approach, the other half fly in from stacks located south of the city. The routes from the southern stacks to the final approach merge point also pass directly overhead.

In addition to Heathrow, when the wind is just right, the area between Camberwell and Loughborough Junction is also on the final approach to City Airport. Flights to City approach from the west on any easterly wind, but because of Heathrow's "westerly preference", Heathrow only switches to an approach from the west when easterly winds are > 5km/hr.

Both airports are able to cross approaches by vertically offsetting the flight paths. Heathrow flights pass at 4000-4500 feet, while City flights pass at 1800. On these days, 750+ Heathrow flights rumble past, and another 100+ flights go to City. 850+ flights a day over a single area of the city.

The constant noise is driving me fucking mad. The stress is bringing out mental health issues that I have not felt for years. I feel helpless and sad and angry and anxious. I often just want to cry. I ask myself if other people feel this way too. I ask myself what is wrong with me, why do I feel this way, why can't I block out the noise? I become angry and ask myself "How can the government let this continue? Don't they know hundreds of thousands of people have to listen to the ceaseless noise? Do they not care?"

Heathrow has a human cost that is not counted by noise contours. I am not alone in my mental health struggles. This noise has a social and economic impact that neither Heathrow nor the goverment seem to be willing to admit. I wonder how much productivity is lost, how much therapy is needed, how many breakdowns are caused, and how families are negatively affected. How much of our children's sleep is lost or disrupted, how much playtime is interrupted, what is the effect on their development, their learning, and their grades?

Using wildly optimistic estimations of aircraft upgrades, concentrated flight paths and steeper descents, Heathrow claims adding a 3rd runway with an additional 140k approaches/year will reduce the noise for the majority of people. Instead of distributing noise, Heathrow wants to concentrate it, further blighting areas like mine. I cannot imagine any scenario in which adding a 3rd runway and an additional 140k approaches per year will make the situation better. I can only imagine many further hundreds of thousands of people sitting in their homes, listening to airplanes, feeling helpless, feeling frustrated, and feeling angry.

Theresa May says that post-Brexit, the government must look outward and signal "Britain is open for business." Many hundreds of thousands in the capital will be asking, "Mrs. May, why did you not also look out for us?"