RESIDENTS LAUNCH NIGHT FLIGHT CAMPAIGN
Residents living under Birmingham Airport’s flight paths are finally banding together to fight for the right to a peaceful night’s sleep. On the 21st November, residents, community groups and councillors will gather to kick off the campaign against night flights from the airport. John Stewart, who led the victorious Heathrow Airport campaign, local councillor Jim Ryan and others will address the meeting. Several thousand leaflets advertising the meeting have already been distributed and the issue has struck a chord with residents: a packed hall is expected on the night.
John Stewart is leader of HACAN Clear Skies, the Heathrow resident’s coalition that took Heathrow Airport to the European court over their right to a good night's sleep, and won. Although the UK government has yet to accept the ruling, this marks a clear shift in the balance of power between residents and their intrusive airports. Suddenly, all over the country, night flights have become a contentious issue. HACAN Clear Skies is a model for successful community action on airport noise, and Birmingham residents are looking forward to finding out how they can copy their success.
Birmingham Airport is still frequently in breach of the World Health Organisation's noise guidelines. Their punishment system fines operators who break noise limits, and the moneys gained go to local communities, – but each of those payments represents thousands of residents suffering the consequences of lost sleep.
Local resident Albert Yeomans said: "How can the airport boast about the size of this fund when it is based on the number of flights breaking noise guidelines? That is NOT something to be proud of! I will definitely be attending the meeting and I have spoken to lots of people who say they will come along as well."
This situation is not going to improve, either, because Birmingham Airport wants to double its traffic by 2005. With Solihull Council's agreement, they have already increased their annual night movement limit from 4,200 (1997) to 5,500 (1999) and again to 6,220 – nearly 50% over four years. Although they claim they are not using this full limit, with the massive projected increase in traffic, the number of night flights is likely to go up, not down – unless residents mobilise.
Jim Ryan said: "It's empowering for people to get together to protect their environment – particularly for communities who don't have a track record of acting together or having their voices heard. After all, these are matters that will affect themselves, their children and their children's children".
Responses to the leaflet are flooding back, giving the lie to the airport's and some local councillors' claims that people feel they have been adequately represented already.
Brett Rehling of Friends of the Earth said: "When residents complain about aircraft noise, the airport tells them that nobody else is complaining. Now they know that not only are there thousands of other people disturbed by aircraft in Birmingham, but also that countless people suffering similar sleep deprivation around Heathrow have already fought their corner and won."