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London's Noise Pollution: It's Plane Stupid

12/10/2017 11:46 BST | Updated 12/10/2017 11:46 BST
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At the end of last week, as part of a special message shared for the 70th anniversary of Gardeners' Question Time, the Queen bemoaned the noise of passing aircraft in the garden at the Royals' historic retreat, Frogmore House in Windsor.

In a pre-recorded message for the Radio 4 show, Queen Elizabeth commented on her family's affection for Frogmore House and its gardens and how she "would echo the sentiments of Queen Victoria who, 150 years ago, wrote of this dear lovely garden where all is peace and you only hear the hum of bees, the singing of the birds.

"These days there is more noise from the air than in 1867."

And while I couldn't give a toss about the Royal retreat, the Queen has drawn to the fore a resounding problem that London faces - the constant, booming noise pollution from aircraft flying over central London.

The capital's airplane noise is completely out of control and too few people are shouting about it.

Perhaps we've just got used to it? Perhaps I just can't hear you over the deafening sound of that plane flying overhead? But I thunderingly condemn the need for any central Londoners to pause a TV show to wait for a plane to pass over the house to not miss what's said.

I'm probably a little angrier than some since I live in one of - what have become to be known as - London's noise ghettos. Since the Area Navigation (RNAV) systems were brought in to force flights to follow more streamlined routes to lower fuel emissions, Bow, Leyton, Leytonstone, Wanstead and Redbridge now endure around 70 percent of flight paths to and from London City Airport. And areas of south east London, including Brixton, Greenwich and Lewisham, haven't got off lightly either.

To those lucky enough not to be living underneath an airport flightpath, let me assure you this is no petty annoyance. In many houses, the noise penetrates the best double glazed windows and having a conversation in the garden or with windows open is a no go (you can find more experiences from residents here).

And with research showing that people who are constantly barraged by plane noise are at a heightened risk of heart disease and noise levels in East London measuring up to 87 decibels back in 2010 (the World Health Organisation has stated that over 40 decibels of noise outside of a bedroom at night can lead to adverse health effects), the deafening noise pollution across London cannot continue to be overlooked.

Because it doesn't have to be like this - there are a number of ways that politicians could tackle this if they wanted to. The UK Noise Association is calling for a number of different approaches to help reduce airplane noise pollution, including introducing quieter planes, improving operation practices - in particular periods of respite for residents, and a tax to cut the number of short-haul flights.

While perhaps we should also be taking it one step further by asking ourselves whether we really NEED an airport in zone three of London - let alone its £344m expansion. Or, asking why we even permit planes to fly so low over London in the first place - it's not the norm for European capital cities (I've never heard a plane in central Paris...), so why do we treat it as a necessary evil?

It's time that we challenge our politicians to stop solely debating over which London airport should have an extra runway or investment, fuelling the noise pollution and suffering of residents under its flight paths.

If we shout loud enough, they have to hear the thousands of disgruntled residents... except, is that another plane I see heading towards us?