Paul Baker gave a presentation outlining why helicopter noise was a problem in Hammersmith and Fulham, what noise controls existed to limit this and what the Council could do to reduce the impact on residents.
The Chair thanked Mr Baker for his report and explained that the Council had appointed him as a member of the London Heliport Consultative Committee. He said that the Committee lacked any real power, and had previously been fairly unsuccessful, however, recently it had started to take a firmer line with the Heliport; this had resulted in the commissioning of a Helicopter noise survey. The survey was the first to be carried out in the history of the heliport, and the results were expected in December 2017.
Christina Smyth said that there was an issue with the legislative regime being very light touch, with the impact of helicopter routing not being scrutinised adequately. She felt that the Mayor and the UK Government needed to be lobbied to get power devolved to London and to try to encourage dispersal of flights in built up areas. She also noted that the Heliport had been uncooperative and seemed focussed only on maximising profits rather than on ensuring that residents were not unacceptably affected by their operations.
A resident asked who the main users of the heliport were. Councillor Culhane said that the main users were wealthy individuals going to and from London, but that helicopter tours of London were also increasing in popularity. There were peaks in usage on some event days where lots of people travelled by helicopter to events such as the British Grand Prix or Ladies Day at Royal Ascot. A resident asked whether high levels of tax were charged. Christina Smyth said that she would look into the level of tax associated with helicopter flights.
A resident said that they had been very concerned by a significant increase in helicopter noise over the summer; he had been unable to find out why this was and feared that a flight path had been developed over his neighbourhood. He suggested that better information from the Heliport might ease residents’ concerns. Christina Smyth said that the Heliport made it deliberately difficult for residents to get information.
A resident noted that most recent helicopter crashes had involved twin engined aircraft, which were currently allowed to fly away from approved safe routes; he said that he thought that this should be changed to ensure that a helicopter did not crash into residential areas of London.
Councillor Phibbs asked whether the Mayor of London could do anything to improve the issues identified with helicopter flights. Paul Baker explained that the Mayor currently had no powers which could be used to control aviation, however, as it seemed appropriate for the issue to be dealt with regionally it had been suggested that the Mayor should lobby to get additional powers.
Councillor Phibbs asked whether the 1,000 feet minimum height for helicopter flights could be enforced. Paul Baker said that the CAA could take action however it was difficult to do as lots of information was needed. The possibility of using RADAR to identify helicopters flying under 1,000 feet was discussed although it was not known if this was technically possible. Councillor Phibbs asked whether the minimum height could be raised and Paul Baker explained that the current limit had been introduced to bring the UK into line with the internationally recommended minimum and that shared aviation rules were desirable in their own right.
Councillor Hamilton said that he was concerned that the Heliport could still increase its usage by 25-30%. He also said that the impact of routes should be considered as it was possible that these might cause some residents significant disruption, whereas point to point flights might cause a little disturbance to lots of people a little of the time.
Councillor Hamilton asked whether there was any information on the percentage of complaints about helicopters which related to the operations of the heliport. Paul Baker said that it was not always possible to say what a complaint related to, as insufficient information was sometimes given by residents. He said, however, that the vast majority of complaints were about helicopters flying to and from the heliport.
Councillor Hamilton asked whether there was anything that could be done to reduce the amount of noise made by each helicopter. Paul Baker said that the noise study might identify helicopters breaching the decibel limits set on each movement to and from the heliport which could allow enforcement action to be taken.
Councillor Cassidy asked whether the psychological impact of helicopter noise had been considered. Paul Baker said that he wasn’t aware of a study of helicopter noise.