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Imagine this once every five minutes

PUBLISHED: 16:14 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 11:47 12 August 2010

AIRPLANES could be droning overhead every five minutes if a major flightpath alteration goes ahead, an expert has warned.

AIRPLANES could be droning overhead every five minutes if a major flightpath alteration goes ahead, an expert has warned.

Weeks before the government decides on a third runway at Heathrow, campaigners claimed they discovered 'hidden' evidence that the number of flights going over areas including Beckenham, Dartford and Croydon could be a third higher than expected.

Pressure group HACAN Clearskies anticipates flights from Heathrow will rise by 174,000 a year to 476,000 if a third runway is built.

On Monday campaigners said they had found, buried in Department for Transport (DfT) proposals, evidence that a revamp of landing procedures could mean another 60,000 flights a year.

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN Clearskies, said: "Planes will be flying over Beckenham about once every five minutes.

"It's going to be a new source of noise in the area. They will be flying low enough for them to cause a disturbance for the people living below them.

"Most people who will be affected have no idea what is in store for them."

He added: "It's going to have a huge effect on everyone. Certainly if they went ahead with the proposals the increase in CO2 emissions would be enormous."

The campaigners believe demand at Heathrow could be stemmed by encouraging landings in regional airports and improving transport to the capital.

Jacqui Lait, MP for Beckenham, said it was unlikely that the government would dare to go ahead with the proposals.

She said: "Whether we will get these flights depends entirely on whether it all goes ahead. The Conservative Party is opposed to this as a matter of policy. It is fully likely that it won't go ahead, considering we are within 18 months of a general election."

The DfT is to decide on a third runway at Heathrow before February.

Fears that the borough could suffer more noise pollution were compounded on Tuesday when it was revealed that Biggin Hill Airport Ltd (BHAL) is considering applying to change its lease to allow night landings and take-offs.

The Metropolitan Police has approached BHAL to urge it to allow police helicopters to refuel at the airport outside of usual operating hours. Police helicopters have used Biggin Hill Airport during the day for almost 30 years.

In a letter handed to the Times Air Support Unit Commander, Robert Broadhurst, wrote: "If we were able to refuel at Biggin Hill during the night, we could cut [refuelling] to 10 minutes . . .

"My understanding is that the application has been made and we await a response from Bromley council."

Currently police need to take as long as half-an-hour to refuel when in Bromley.

Ray Watson, a campaigner with Flight Path, said: "This could affect several thousand people in Bromley because helicopters can fly anywhere they like.

"While the airport might gain more revenue, residents would have interrupted sleep, and depreciated house values.

"On thing is absolutely certain - soon there will an application for night flying is going to be made."

An application to amend BHAL's lease has not yet been given to the council.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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