Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Plane blight

Our new home is about three quarters of a mile from Belfast City Airport, which is handy if we're taking a plane. And it's far enough away for any aircraft noise to be barely audible. But it's a different story for those right next to the airport.

There's been a continual stand-off for some years now between the airport, which wants to extend the runway, have more flights, and generally see a lot more passengers, and local residents who bitterly oppose any increased activity.

The airport always minimises its expansion plans, insisting the planes won't be any bigger, the flights won't be any more disturbing and so on. The locals are deeply suspicious (and right to be) and fight each new proposal every inch of the way.

Of course the airport says the residents are just standing in the way of progress and economic prosperity. And if they really object to the airport so much, they're free to move somewhere less noisy.

It's a thorny issue - freedom to fly wherever you like versus peace and quiet for ordinary houseowners who don't want to install triple glazing simply to have a normal life. Why do so many people have to fly to so many places, often for no good reason except a bit of self-indulgent pleasure? Can't they do something else that doesn't involve flying?

Well, I have to say I enjoy flying and I enjoy visiting places that realistically you can only fly to. Perhaps the real problem is airports that were thoughtlessly sited near to residential areas and now keep growing regardless of the rising antagonism.

They could easily be resited somewhere less populated, and reached on high-speed transport links. Although that would bring fresh protests from those wanting to protect the green belt.

Is there any simple answer to the flying dilemma? I suspect not, it's a bit of a zero-sum game. I fly, you pop in the earplugs.
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Some 115 Romanians have been terrorised out of their homes in south Belfast by racist thugs. They are now under police guard at temporary accommodation. And a man who helped organise an anti-racism rally has been told his house will be firebombed. See Jenny's post on this sickening episode.

21 comments:

Baino said...

Ah Nick, it's the old chicken and egg syndrome. We have a flight curfew between 11pm and 6am to satisfy local residents. The bottom line though is that even the oldest resident within earshot of airports usually moved there after the airport was built. We're doing a runway extension as I type and it's a constant rucous from neighbours. The NSW Government bought a huge tract of land out west about 20 years ago and the new airport still hasn't gone ahead. Shame because it wouldn't upset anyone but the cows!

Nick said...

Baino - A night-time curfew is something, but it doesn't address the constant daytime noise of planes taxiing, taking off and landing. I imagine a lot of the residents bought houses near the airport either because they were cheaper or because the airport used to be less busy. If they had had more cash, they would no doubt have opted for somewhere else.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have nothing encouraging to say, sadly. It sounds miserable and I would hate it. When the Blue Angels come to SF to perform every year, we have jet noises all day long, every day, for a week. I can't even contemplate dealing with this all the time, and I'm sorry you have to.

Nick said...

Heart - Oh, you misunderstood me, I've rewritten the first paragraph to make it clearer. We don't have any noise problems because we're far enough away from the airport, but for people right next to it it's a big issue.

Liz said...

I can't see the problem getting anything other than worse until we run out of fuel. As you say some places can only reasonably be accessed by plane, and for others it's the time it would take to drive or go on a train that makes flying a more popular alternative.

Now when I was a little girl, we had to beg a lift from my uncle who had a car to take us on our hols to a caravan on Gower!

Nick said...

Liz - Oil industry experts say oil supplies will last until at least the next century, so don't hold your breath! And if I tried getting from Belfast to London by train and ferry it would take an absurdly long time.

Grannymar said...

I grew up under the flight path to Dublin Airport and now watch from my living room as the planes begin to descend along the flight path to Belfast International. Perhaps I was conditioned from an early age and am only occasionally aware of the noise.

I find the traffic noise more of a nuisance, in particular motorcycles or cars that backfire. The sirens from emergency vehicles pierce right through my skull. The latter I forgive as they provide a necessary and important service. Thankfully living in a cul-de-sac saves me from most of that.

We are in a noisy world whether we like it or not. I am told it is called PROGRESS!

Nick said...

Grannymar - Our previous house was directly under the flight path to City Airport but the planes were still high enough to be unobtrusive. Now we aren't under the flight path at all.

I certainly wouldn't want to live on a main road full of juggernauts and double-decker buses, it must be almost as bad as being next to the airport.

conortje said...

how about more smaller airports so teh traffic is divided? I MUCH prefer flying to the little airports anyway.

Nick said...

Conor - Good idea. In fact one of the nice things about City Airport is how small it is. It's not seething with bag-laden humanity like Heathrow, and baggage reclaim takes ten minutes max.

Wisewebwoman said...

When these airports were built I believe jet engines had still to be in common use and of course the travelling was nowhere near today's levels.
I was shocked to see new housing estates being built in Toronto with huge signs that said "Warning, these houses are directly beneath Flight Path XX and consequently hearing of occupants in this area will be adversely affected." Sold out.
Now I guess the pickets of noise pollution complainers are forming.
As to oil, I heard a radio programme yesterday that jet fuel costs are going through the roof and air tickets prices will be prohibitive in 2010.
it will sort.....
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - Incredible that all those Toronto houses sold out even with the dire warning. Were they exceptionally cheap? I hadn't heard the predictions about air ticket prices, that would certainly cut air travel.

rummuser said...

There is no one answer that will satisfy everyone concerned. We live fairly close to a civil and military airport and on and off are subject to the noise of planes taking off or landing. We have got used to it and I really envy my father who cannot hear them any way!

The Romanian problem story has been doing the rounds and all that I can say is that I am sad that this happens in this day and age.

Nick said...

Ramana - Perhaps houses near airports should only be sold to people who're deaf! As a child I lived next to a railway line and I was so used to it I barely noticed the trains.

Grannymar said...

@WWW - Anyone who buys one of those houses will waste their time in complaining about the noise, since they are well aware of the problem at the time of purchase.

Nick said...

Grannymar - True, you could hardly be unaware of the noise problem, the same as buying a house next to a chemical factory!

Mudflapgypsy said...

I wouldn't buy a house or land under a flightpath near to an airport. Caveat emptor.

As for the rascism in Belfast, no surprise there at all. The, ahem, unique situation here meant that no foreigners came here to live. The people here had no experience of different skin colourings or customs so now that there has been an influx of foreigners the rednecks, both city and country, are grumbling and complaining about the Poles etc. I suppose when they learnt the the Romanians were Roma the age old anti gypsy feelings came to the fore. Sad, really. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert has a photo essay on the Roma from a lot of years back. The Roma are persecuted in Romania, what must they think of us?

Nick said...

Muddy - Well, there's been a large Chinese community here for some years, and quite a few Bangladeshis, though it's true immigration has risen faster in the last few years. It's hard to know exactly what the racists are objecting to, since they haven't explained their actions. But this persecution certainly needs to be stopped before it gets worse.

Mudflapgypsy said...

Nick: I shouldn't have that NO foreigners came here to live. I know that there are Chinese , Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities here. They didn't arrive in a wave much as has happened over the past lot of years. I think that the influx has made some people feel threatened - foreigners coming over here either stealing jobs or living on benefits....both fallacies. Low intelligence and narrow mindedness. A deadly combination

As for the perpetrators, they have a couple of teenagers for it...that is all it takes isn't it, a couple of testosterone fuelled emptyheads?

Nick said...

Muddy - Feeling threatened's natural enough. If only they'd discuss their feeling threatened with other people instead of going out on the rampage against ordinary families who're just trying to better themselves.

Mudflapgypsy said...

I couldn't agree more.