LETTER: ‘Rumbled’ by noise of overhead planes

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The following is an open letter I have written to Tom Denton, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Gatwick Airport Limited:

I received your letter of 6 August, notifying us that the consultation on airspace, and possible new runway, was coming to an end on 14 August. The letter urged us to give feedback.

So consultation it is then? I’d like to make three points on consultation and the way you and your organization have gone about it: -

Firstly, with the recent dreadful, and ill thought out, ADNID trail, I recall you decided not to consult. In the January GATCOM minutes, it was noted that: ‘Mr. Denton would consider this but... If people were aware of the trial it was possible that they would be more alert to changes and feel obliged to comment’.

My impression from these comments, and from your attitude throughout the whole trial period, is that you don’t really like feedback at all. You have to do it, but you don’t really want to hear it, unless it’s supportive.

In the event, you have had consultation on the trial, without wanting or asking for it. Because, curiously enough, people did actually notice that planes were going overhead, because they were unable to hear the person they were sat next to in the garden, the television, or the person they were on the phone to, with planes flying over at 4,000 feet! You were rumbled, by several villages and a town, just as we were being ‘rumbled’ by the noise of overhead planes.

Secondly, in the consultation you refer to in the letter. Rather than go for a straight yes or no answer to a new runway, and its impact on airspace, you chose to muddy the waters with 3 ‘yes’ options. It’s pretty clear to any thinking person why this was – to get the result you wanted. Spread votes 4 ways and you’re more likely to be able to add Options 1 to 3 to reveal a positive result, in favour of the new runway, competing against only one option ‘No new runways, or flightpaths’.

You further enhanced your chances of success by not even making this Option 4 clearly visible on the Website and so encouraging people to believe that they had to pick options 1 to 3.

This is not consultation, rather it is manipulation, but people did not fall for it. When reporting back on the results of the Ipsos Mori poll, to the press, you have given statistics on Options 1, 2 and 3, without revealing that (despite your best efforts to skew the survey) it was in fact Option 4 that had utterly overwhelming support (many thousands, compared with hundreds for the three “yes” options combined). How can we trust an organization that reports back in such a disingenuous manner?

Thirdly, now that the trial has stopped, the planes have not, as I’m sure Horsham residents are aware. Rather than revert to the established, and sensible, BOGNA route, planes are now being flown to the very limit of previous allowed routes, not far at all from the trial ADNID, that was clearly upsetting so many people, with considerable justification.

Not only that, but the patterns have become much more erratic and unpredictable. It’s almost as if the powers that be are so piqued at complaints, that they have decided all bets are off and flights will be spread in wide swathes, as a punishment to teach local residents a lesson.

One final point is that Gatwick Airport are now adopting the approach of denial. When we point out that the planes are flying overhead, which they did not before the trial, we are just being told that it’s the same as it was last year. This is not the case. Coupled with the stance of denial, you are now ignoring our letters, asking why we have planes flying low overhead. Ignoring the legitimate concerns of residents is not the best way for any responsible company to engage with those affected by noise pollution.

Your track record on consultation really isn’t very good, is it? You don’t wish to consult because people might complain. If you do ‘consult’, you load the survey, rather than give people a straight choice. And then you misreport the findings of the survey. To cap it all, you finally close the consultation early, by mistake! It’s a shambles, at best, and a sham at worst.

Consultation, your style? Thanks, but no thanks.

Chris Simmons

Broadbridge Heath Road, Warnham