Aircraft noise pollution becoming a bigger issue for homes around London Heathrow

An article on the website published on Friday 13th May 2011 entitled “Richmond left out of BAA’s aircraft noise compensation scheme” stated that “Homeowners have expressed disappointment a proposed BAA scheme to offer financial compensation to communities suffering from aircraft noise will not include Richmond. Residents living under Heathrow’s flight paths are set to miss out on plans to help more families pay for double glazing or even the cost of moving out of the area. BAA has proposed expanding the area where it would give communities compensation, extending it out as far as Isleworth, in Hounslow, to the east of the airport. But the new zones would not stretch as far as Richmond, despite planes roaring over parts of the borough every day.”

Passenger Aircraft Flying Low Over London
Low Flying Passenger Aircraft Over London
However, as those of us like myself who live near London Heathrow Airport, one does not have to be directly in the main flight path to “suffer” from noise pollution from low flying aircraft. Richmond is not the only town or county affected by flights taking off from, and landing at Heathrow, so if BAA opened the floodgates to them, we would all be knocking on BAA’s door. Even Her Majesty the Queen is not immune from aircraft noise pollution at either Buckingham Palace and especially when she resides at Windsor Castle in Royal Berkshire. The Royal residence is extremely near Heathrow, and like many towns surrounding the UK’s busiest airport is either in the flight path or underneath where aircraft stack before landing.

Towns in Middlesex, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire like Richmond, Twickenham, Hampton, Ealing, Hayes, Greenford, Hillingdon, Denham, Stoke Poges, Iver Heath, Datchet, Burnham, Amersham, Beaconsfield, Uxbridge, Eton Wick, Farnham Royal, Fulmer and Gerrards Cross are all already affected by aircraft noise, nothing like what they would suffer from if the new third runway ever gets the go ahead from the Government.

Whilst the majority of the homes in these areas are already benefiting from having fitted replacement double glazing, not many will have fitted triple glazing, which by its nature is more sound proof than double glazing. Sadly, most of the replacement double or triple glazing that has been fitted will not actually be “sound proof”, as home owners would not have specified the right type of glass to combat the subsequent growth in aircraft noise pollution.

There is no such thing as a “sound proofed window” in the truest sense of sound proof in the UK domestic market. What actually reduces the transfer of noise is the size of the gap(s) between the two or three panes of glass in a double or triple glazed window, the thickness of the panes of glass themselves and their specification. To help reduce noise transfer, one of these panes of glass needs to be thicker than the other(s) and also laminated. Only by combing these factors and specifying the right type of replacement windows can outside noise really be reduced through the glazing itself.

Please be aware that noise will still get through any trickle vents in the window frame or through air bricks, nooks and crannys, cracks between frames and the walls, pipes and through doors letterboxes etc.

To actually attempt to truly sound proof a home, you have to pack the cavities round windows, doors, insulate the loft, eaves and walls etc. Whilst noise will be reduced by taking such actions, it is almost impossible to totally eradicate it from a UK home. So property owners in Surrey, Middlesex, Herts, Berks and Bucks whose house is affected by aircraft noise from planes using London Heathrow have three stark choices: 1) live with it, 2) move or 3) take steps to reduce the noise by installing the right specification double glazing.

For householders who already have double glazing, secondary glazing is the most cost effective, and genuinely effective solution. The optimum gap to severely reduce noise between glass panes is about 100mm, so fitting single laminated secondary glazing, or even heavy duty double secondary glazing behind existing single, double or triple glazing will genuinely reduce noise pollution, but also the amount of space on the windows cills on which to put ornaments and pictures.

Richmond home owners don’t appear to be in line for any grant to help them fit secondary glazing, double glazing or move house because of aircraft noise pollution. However, they like the millions of us living around London’s Heathrow Airport do have choices, and can act to improve the quality of life inside our homes should they wish to.

Sadly, none of us can do anything about the aircraft noise when we are in our garden or out and about, but that is the price we have to pay for leaving in close proximity to one of the World’s busiest airports.


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