Whilst the controversial matter of a third runway for Heathrow now appears to have been settled by Government decree, at the other end of the country, a much smaller but analogous proposal has created local anxiety and opposition.
In 2012 a long-standing helicopter service folded on the grounds it had become uneconomic. The Cornwall Council facilitated the decision by allowing a change of use for the site, enabling it to be sold for a Sainsbury's supermarket. All existing site facilities were then lost.
Since that time the hereditary leaseholder (from the Duchy of Cornwall) of Tresco, Robert Dorrien-Smith, has sought to re-establish a Penzance heliport on a green field site, north east of the previous one. This if approved will obviously involve the reintroduction of noise, pollution and other environmental consequences to a wide area.
Many look back on the old BEA operation that started in May 1964 with a certain degree of nostalgia and its impact tolerated. It carried many hundreds of thousands to the Isles of Scilly, perhaps most notably the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his wife Mary, now both at rest on the Islands.
However in the meantime the commercial situation has changed fundamentally with both fixed wing and helicopter service now operating from Lands End Airport, ten miles closer to the Islands to the west. This facility has been made available to Dorrien Smith should he wish to take advantage of it.
In view of this, the balance between gains and losses in environmental and social terms, has shifted fundamentally.
Those whose peace and quiet enjoyment of their property will be affected, argue that the unavoidable adverse environmental consequences imposed into the foreseeable future, are no longer justifiable. They call on the Planning Authority to at least defer the decision, until more reliable information is available, on which to base a judgement.
- Mounts Bay is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in the UK. Is it sensible to put an airport in the middle of it? It is surrounded on 3 sides by AONBs. English Heritage certainly has serious concerns.
- Especially when there’s already an airport flying helicopters to the Scillies at Lands End. The economic case for another heliport isn’t persuasive. There is no evidence that it would boost the economy of Penzance and some speculation that the noise and disruption might harm the tourist economy.
- It seems shortsighted in 2018 to commit to the most polluting solution for getting to the Scillies in terms of CO2, disruption and noise. The helicopter uses 150 gallons of kerosene an hour. Scilly needs a fast, comfortable and cheap ferry service, not a £200 per person helicopter ride for tourists.
- The loss of agricultural land on the edge of Penzance will lead to further urban sprawl and inappropriate development. This site also has a Bronze Age barrow on it.
- Noise pollution at the level predicted will cause substantial harm in terms of its continual annoyance. The low grade stress will also cause high blood pressure, as well as increased numbers of heart attacks and strokes.
- 15000 local residents living within 2.5km of the heliport will be adversely affected as will be those directly under the flight path in Newlyn, Paul and St Buryan.
- The current proposal will allow a 40% increase in operating time compared to 2012, with flights from 0730 to 1930, 7 days a week. There will be 17 departures and 17 arrivals per day for the 5 months of the summer with helicopter noise for 37 minutes out of every hour.
- The Council is legally obliged to properly investigate the potential for harm of this development. So far it has failed to do so. It must also demonstrate that it has taken steps to mitigate harm if it supports the application. Only a restriction on operating times constitutes effective mitigation. The flying times should not exceed those of the pre 2012 scheduled service which were 0800-1800 Monday to Saturday with no flights on Sunday.
Penzance Heliport Planning Application PA16/09346
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PENZANCE HELIPORT: CORNWALL COUNCIL COULD FACE A SECOND JUDICIAL REVIEW!
Objectors to the Penzance Heliport are considering the case for a second judicial review in the event of the current application gaining planning permission.
Local GP Mark Russell said, “like a lot of people initially I thought, ok it’s always been there and it’ll be good for the Scillies to have it back. However when I read the planning statement I changed my mind. First of all there was to be a 40% increase in operating hours and second the noise impact assessment was clearly wrong. To conclude helicopter noise at Eastern Green for 37 out of every 60 minutes 12 hours a day would cause no significant noise nuisance was beyond belief. “
I find it odd that the planning statement makes no mention of the accumulating body of evidence about the harmful effects of noise nuisance. It seems that for the 15000 people within 2.5km, the health effects of noise are about half as bad as being a regular smoker in terms of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
David Howard a Gulval resident for 50 years says now that there is a helicopter service from Lands End the argument about a strategic need for an additional transport link for islanders and visitors to Tresco is redundant . “It doesn’t matter who the operator is, improved technology at Lands End means there are fewer weather bound days and this will get better as the technology develops.
Lynne Dyer is director of Growing links, a community gardening project in Eastern Green. “As a company that strives to find healthy environmental solutions for local issues everything we stand for is against the heliport. The Isles of Scilly need good affordable travel links by ferry not by helicopter. The noise of the helicopters will destroy the sanctuary and peace that so many local people have found at the garden here.”
Lesley Bradley Peer worries that too much attention has been paid to the number of supporting letters. “Nearly all of these have been submitted by Scilly holidaymakers who won’t have to put up with the environmental and noise pollution” she says.
Katherine Uren believes there are many things that could be done to reduce the impact of noise nuisance, lighting pollution, traffic and extension of development into open countryside. Gulval Village Community Association has made representations on all these matters and, clearly, preventing evening and Sunday flights would make a significant difference. However, the changes in circumstances since the new heliport was first proposed – the increase in operating hours, the investment in technology at Lands End airport and weaknesses identified in the applicants’ noise assessment – suggest that the balance between need for the development and harm is now different.
Town councillor Jonathan How agrees. “Locals have tolerated a more restricted service for a number of years and it would be sensible to restrict flying to its previous timetable. Once the permission is granted it can’t be undone and any number of complaints about the noise won’t make a difference. Better to be cautious from the outset.”
The campaigners are concerned about the many omissions in the planning statement. David Howard is clear. “There are now two reports concluding that WYG’s noise impact statement is both biased and misleading. The Council has a clear choice. It can commission its own acoustic report or take heed of these reports and refuse the application.”
Caught on camera?
Members of the Strategic Planning Committee.
The Chief Planning Officer.
The Chief Environmental Health Officer.
Penzance Heliport Application, PA16/09346.
Strategic Planning Committee, 28th June, 2018.
This is a somewhat belated and 'rear-guard' submission, by a resident who has only recently
become alarmed at the likely devastating impact of the above application, on the quiet
enjoyment of his property and locality. If approved in accordance with the current criteria, it
will have a permanent and significant detrimental effect, made worse by the fact that normal
legal avenues for compensation and abatement of nuisance, are virtually all blocked by
statute, if and when planning permission is given.
I would submit the application should be refused for a catalogue of cogent reasons but
if despite this, the Planning Authority chooses to approve it, only stringent conditions
can make it tolerable. In no event should these be more lax than those applying to the
former operation that ceased in 2012 because it was considered commercially un-viable.
Specifically but not exclusively, this should at least rule out flights on a Sunday and operate
within the same time framework.
2.0 Noise and its Measurement
Rather akin to the definition of “weeds” - “plants in the wrong place” - “noise” is just “unwanted and/or harmful sound”. In this sense it is always a subjective human response but of course even if there were no humans in the world, there would still be 'sound', created and heard by the natural world. Beethoven perhaps illustrates both the value of created sound in the form of majestic music, whilst demonstrating the implicit tragic results in the loss of the human facility to hear.
Noise is a form of physical energy that requires a source, a medium and a receptor and will vary in intensity (loudness) and characteristics, from which we determine from experience the likely cause. Just as light is a spectrum, so any noise contains within it a range of frequencies from low to high, analogous to the notes on a piano. Humans with their usual ingenuity, have not only created the machines that generate noise but also the machines to measure it, which has in turn created the science of 'acoustics' by which standards and judgements are made.
Noise by definition is either annoying or harmful to humans. It has become ever more a ubiquitous feature of modern life. Public bodies are urged to be alert to the need to control unwanted sound but often in their decision making, do the exact opposite, making the problem worse. That will unavoidably be the case if the Penzance Heliport application is approved. Its adverse consequences should not be underestimated.
Everybody knows sustained high levels of noise (roughly over 85dBA) can cause occupational deafness, but what is less well known is that levels well short of this can seriously impinge on psychological well-being and actually reduce life expectancy from a range of other medical conditions (See: Ref. 11 below) It is generally agreed that where a noise is subjectively twice that of the background noise environment, nuisance will be caused. This equates to 10dBA but other factors such as the characteristics of the noise, its frequency, periodicity, the susceptibility of the receptor and time of day can increase or reduce the problem.
The decibel (dB) scale is logarithmic. This means that sound pressure doubles with every 3dB. The human ear accommodates this and explains why it only appears to have doubled at 10dB despite actually being nearly eight times the physical intensity. The significance of this fact becomes clearer when the applicant claims the helicopter will add only 8.4 dB to the acoustical environment. I believe this to be false and a misrepresentation resulting from methodological errors to down-play the impact. It should also be noted that the use of certain recognised measurement indices, notably 'Leq', averages out sound over a time period. It therefore inherently underestimates the noise created during the actual activity of landing, idling and taking off.
It is in this general context that The Civil Aviation Authority's observation should be understood:
“Helicopter noise is far more complex to measure and assess than fixed-wing aircraft noise. This is mainly because helicopters often don’t have to follow predefined routes, like fixed wing aircraft, and because helicopters may hover over a specific area for a while making the impact of the noise last for longer. Also, variations in the speed of the rotor blades means that the way noise travels also varies, and results in an asymmetric noise distribution, i.e. different noise levels from one side of a helicopter to the other.” (13)
Perhaps I may first be allowed to point out the not insubstantial grounds of experience and
technical competence from which I speak.
I have owned and lived in my existing property, less than half a mile to the NE from the
proposed site, for over forty years. Although the noise of trains and traffic intrudes to a
greater or lesser extent depending on climatic conditions, it is a relatively quiet and peaceful
rural location. I therefore know what impact the previous helicopter operation made. At times,
particularly during extended idling or hovering, the noise was previously intolerable. In
addition the smell of burnt aviation fuel was also a nuisance. There is no reason to suppose
these circumstances will not be repeated, indeed to a greater extent because the proposed site is
closer and the proposed operation more intensive.
During this time I have also witnessed a deterioration in the acoustic and natural environment. With the exception of helicopter noise from 2012, when the last operation folded, noise from other sources has increased with the introduction of the Long Rock by-pass, more traffic, noisier trains and agricultural plant and local commercial developments sometimes involving loud music. Meanwhile there has been a marked change in agricultural practice with numerous old farms being replaced by intensive farming which is probably responsible for a marked decline in plant and animal diversity. Bees seem to have disappeared. The number and variety of birds appears to have declined, with some species that were formerly always in appearance such as Curlews and Lapwings are no longer to be seen or heard. Swallow numbers are only a fraction of what they were. The extent to which human mechanical activity has contributed to this, is open to debate, but one thing is clear, the reintroduction of constant helicopter noise can only make matters worse.
3.0 Principal Grounds for Objection
3.1 This application is fundamentally at odds with the Government's stated objectives of reducing noise, (1) atmospheric pollution (2) and CO2, (3) whilst strengthening planning controls (4) and enhancing the rural environment. (5) It runs counter to all of them and subjects a large number of residential properties to significantly increased noise levels.
3.2 An existing airport with approved fixed wing and helicopter at Lands End fatally undermines the commercial case for an additional facility at Penzance. If the former operation was un-viable without this competition, how can the proposed new one be with all its increased start-up costs? (6)
3.3 The proposed location is a green field site of high agricultural and archaeological value being the site of a recently discovered Bronze Age barrow which has been partially excavated. (7) Overriding need must be demonstrated if these two criteria are to be ignored;
3.4 The proposal is contrary to the Cornwall Local Plan and Draft Neighbourhood Development Plan and will permanently change the status of the site from agricultural to commercial with all that entails, extending the built up area to the east. Again an over-riding need must be established to over-ride this; (8)
3.5 The visual and amenity impact will be adverse and immense, particularly as regards building and hundreds of parked cars, besides obviously the nuisance value of noise and other pollution from continuously arriving and departing aircraft;
3.6 It will add to road traffic congestion and pollution at that location;
3.7 The helicopter itself will create noise and pollution, seriously affecting the health and well being of a substantial number of properties within a mile radius and under the flight path. The adverse consequences on well-being, health and property valuation in these affected areas has not been addressed but is likely to be not insignificant. (A comprehensive academic review of the issues can be found here. (9))
3.8 The legal obligation for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has not been adequately fulfilled and the Noise Assessment submitted by the applicant is inherently biased and unreliable. (10)
4.0 Nuisance Value of Noise and Vibration
It should be noted that noise has the capacity to cause not only nuisance but also very real and adverse health effects. Increased environmental noise is correlated with increased heart attacks and premature death rates. Any activity or proposal that increases it, is therefore to be taken very seriously indeed, if heath and well being are valued at all. (11)
The extent to which noise or vibration is a perceived nuisance to a hearer depends on many factors which makes it an inexact and subjective science. The following need to be taken into account:
The level and characteristics of the noise at source;
Times and duration of noise;
The frequency spectrum;
Reflective noise from structures and surfaces;
Height above ground of source;
Distance between source and receptor;
Characteristics of receptors location;
Noise attenuation of receptor's building;
Activity patterns inside or outside;
Existing background noise levels at different times of day
Personal characteristics - age, health, work/sleeping patterns, sensitivity, attitudes to non-disturbance etc.
What is quite clear is that if the noise at source is underestimated and/or the background noise level is overestimated, any calculation on the estimated increase in noise will be faulty and unreliable.
In both instances it would be in the interests of the applicant to play down this figure and whether by default or intentionality, I believe that is what the Tresco commissioned "WYG" "Noise and Vibration Assessment" dated January, 2018, has achieved. Because of fundamental faults in measurement methodology their conclusions are unreliable and misleading.
The source noise may have been underestimated and by choosing sampling locations by sources of traffic noise, ensuring they are much higher than quiet residential or rural positions. By this sleight of hand they predict an increase in noise of 8.4 dBA, which although significant (perceived as a subjective doubling of noise) they not unsurprising conclude "is not considered to be significant during daytime hours".
5.0 Flawed Applicant's Noise Assessment Report
So I would contend that the applicant's Noise Assessment Report by "WYG", dated 31st January, 2018 (12) is fundamentally technically flawed and no reliance can be placed on it's conclusion that (and I quote) "noise levels are not expected to exceed the relevant threshold value and the impact is not considered to be significant during daytime hours on Weekdays 07:00 – 19:00 and Saturdays 07:00 – 13:00 at all receptors." Please note, no reference is made here to the Sunday operation.
My opinion is thoroughly and professionally backed by a separately commissioned "Review of WYG Noise & Vibration Assessment? by acoustic expert John Sim of AAD (Applied Acoustic Design). (10) This states, "There have been a limited number of measurement locations used to set baseline noise levels most of which are around Gulval, Longrock and Marazion. There are two in the main Penzance area, Lecudjack Hill (ST2) and Penzance Quay (ST1)" and that these are not representative of quieter residential and rural locations.
This is clearly designed to suggest background noise levels are higher and thereby reduce any apparent increase created by helicopter operations.
Further it would appear that "WYG" have used a noisy location at The Quay in Penzance, extrapolated without measurement, to the much quieter location at Trewarveneth Street in Newlyn. Not only is this bad science, you may well conclude this is unethical and deceptive, rendering the whole report unreliable!
This is not an isolated case as the AAD reveals but typical of the whole approach by the WYG report. To quote Mr Sim's assessment:
"Baseline ambient noise levels at R1 are likely to be significantly lower than the 64 dB LAeq, T values assumed, the only receiver locations with similar high levels of noise are at R5 and R6. These are receiver locations between about 80m and 50m of the A30. This cannot be correct. Drawings SK03 and SK04 show that the area around R1 and around R2 are the most affected in terms of noise from the over-flight of helicopters outside of the area around the proposed heliport location. It is therefore further not understood why no baseline noise measurements were made in Bowjey or other residential areas in southern half of Newlyn."
He adds regarding other measurements: "Again assuming the A30 road traffic to be the primary noise source in this area one would expect at location R25, at 340m from the A30, that the weekday baseline noise level would be around 45 dB LAeq, T but the weekday baseline is give as 55.5 dB LAeq, T, the same as at R23 and R25."
The result is that, "weekday contribution at location R25 could be 10 dB rather than the reported 0.3 dB" - a huge difference. For the 700 people living within 1km the report predicts a doubling of intensity of noise pollution.
6.0 Specific examples of unreliable or manipulated results
Located close to my address there were apparently two noise sampling points that specifically demonstrate the unreliability of the results on which the conclusion that the new helicopter service will not cause noise nuisance are based. The first is at Poniou Farm (LT2) which is immediately adjacent to the A30 Long Rock bypass, which by virtue of the frequency (some 65,000 traffic movements per 18hr day!) the speed and characteristics of traffic, and the concrete not tarmac road surface, is very noisy.
6.1 Results at LT2/R17 Poniou Farm
LAeq,T (dB) LAmax,T (dB) LAmin,T (dB) LA10,T (dB) LA90,T (dB)
Weekday Early Morning 06:30 - 07:30 4 hours 14/07/2016 - 20/07/2016
54.9 75.1 38.6 56.3 49
Weekday Day 07:30 - 19:30 51 hours 14/07/2016 - 20/07/2016
55.3 84.3 38.6 56.6 51
Weekday Evening 19:30 – 20:30 4 hours 14/07/2016 - 20/07/2016
51.9 80.8 38.7 53.3 49
Saturday Early Morning 06:30 – 07:30 1 hour 16/07/2016
48.2 68.8 37.1 50.2 45
Saturday Day 07:30 – 19:30 12 hours 16/07/2016
52.7 75.7 40.3 54.3 48
Saturday Evening 19:30 – 20:30 1 hour 16/07/2016
48.0 67.7 37.8 49.9 44
Sunday Early Morning 06:30 – 07:30 1 hour 17/07/2016
45.5 69.9 33.9 47.8 41
Sunday Day 07:30 – 19:30 12 hours 17/07/2016
49.9 78.9 34.6 51.2 47
Sunday Evening 19:30 – 20:30 1 hour 17/07/2016
52.8 73.9 39.4 54.6 45
Results at LT2 Poniou Farm interpreted.
Close to a road, noises are heard as individual sources in contrast from a distance away, when they become more merged as a point source with less variation. The first column represents Leq, which is sound pressure averaged over the sampling period. As might be expected this is highest during a working week day and the figure of 55.3 dB is used as the background figure for this location for comparative purposes.
It should be noted that the average figure for a Sunday is 5.4 dB less, but no account of this is made in respect of the nuisance value of proposed Sunday flights. As can be seen from the second column that records peak values of passing vehicles (eg speeding motor bikes) these can be exceedingly noisy - well over 80dB, well past that which can cause occupational deafness in the longer term.
To summarise, this is a noisy location that is not representative of much quieter locations which has the effect of appearing to make the additional noise of a helicopter less intrusive, which seems to be the reason it was chosen rather than (or in addition to) another set back further such as at 'Pleming'. Nor is any account taken of the lower recorded values on a Saturday or Sunday or for 90% of the time (last column).
6.2 Results at ST5/R13 Tolver Farm
This recording location is in an elevated position just under half a mile NE from the proposed heliport. It is generally a very quiet spot but background noise can vary subject to different atmospheric conditions. The Long Rock bypass is the main source of noise but strangely this can vary greatly from being quite inaudible to intrusive, illustrating one of the problems with sound and its measurement.
This also applies to locomotive movements on the railway in the vicinity of the Long Rock level crossing roughly half a mile to the south. Other sources of noise are passing aeroplanes and helicopters, periodic heavy duty agricultural activity in the fields, lane traffic recently significantly increased by commercial development locally and on occasions the noise of bird scarers.
However all of these are very temporary in nature and not to be compared with the almost continuous (about every 25 mins) noise of helicopters landing, idling whilst passengers disembark and load, then taking off again.
LAeq,T (dB) LAmax,T (dB) LAmin,T (dB) LA10,T (dB) LA90,T (dB)
Evening 35 Mins 14/07/2016 19:53
51.1 74.8 30.8 44.4 33.1
Daytime 30 Mins 15/07/2016 07:29
56.5 83.0 35.1 43.9 37.6
Daytime 30 Mins 15/07/2016 15:36
44.3 63.6 36.8 46.7 40.1
Daytime 30 Mins 15/07/2016 17:05
43.3 70.0 35.0 43.0 37.2
Evening 40 Mins 15/07/2016 19:14
39.7 71.6 30.3 38.3 33.0
Daytime 15 Mins 17/07/2016 07:33
35.2 50.9 28.2 37.5 31.0
Daytime 30 Mins 17/07/2016 16:30
34.4 62.2 28.3 36.0 30.8
Daytime 30 Mins 17/07/2016 18:15
34.1 55.4 29.4 35.7 31.8
Unlike the results for LT2 above, the methodology at this site was quite different. The eight
samples over four days in July, 2016, averages out at a fraction over thirty (30) minutes.
This compares with average sampling times at Poniou /LT2 of 9.666 hrs. In other words
nineteen times longer at Poniou than Tolver! It raises the question
as to why so much more time was devoted to a very noisy sampling site, than a very
quiet one? Surely not to slant the results of background noise levels pertaining?
As can be seen despite some anomalous peaks, the noise level for 90% of the sampling
time (i.e. 27 mins of 30) ranged from 31 dB to 41.1 dB. Clearly this is significantly lower
than the 55.3 dB that was generally adopted as the background noise level, yet this was
not even referred to in the final result, as if it did not exist. Presumably the scientific approach
adopted was if the results did not support the foregone conclusion, they would be
excised. This is fraudulent science.
All the sampling periods were taken over a four day period in July 2016. Living next door
I was not informed they were taking place - not that here was any obligation on them to do
so - although it may indicate a certain aversion to consultation, particularly as no contact
has been made on any other occasion, despite being identified as a "Sensitive Receptor
Location" in the WYG report.
The timings appear random other than they concentrate on early morning or late afternoon
but all within the time frame of the application as it currently stands. What I find rather
strange is that all but two of the readings show very elevated peak results (74.8; 83.0; 63.6;
70.0; 71.6; 50.9;; 62.2; 55.4) which are very difficult to explain in such a quiet spot yet
none is given.
Of course without these anomalous peaks the Leq (average) and L90 would have been
even lower. Surely we cannot assume the sampling dates and times just happened to be
when heavy tractors were in operation in the vicinity? This is the only explanation for the
huge disparity between the L90 and Leq evidenced particularly in the first two.
What is absolutely clear is that in this location, where background noise averages out at
under 40 dBA, the helicopter noise less than half a mile away, cannot avoid being highly
intrusive and a nuisance, both inside and outside the domestic premises.
7.0 Noise at source
A map of the route and 'noise sensitive sites' is provided in the WYG report but what is
lacking from it is calculated noise contours, showing clearly the noise 'footprint' on the
surrounding area, principally over land, as it arrives, hovers on landing, idling whilst on the
ground, taking off and flying out and over the peninsula.
Clearly the noise output is subject to change at all these different phases, subject to the
many variables such as wind, climatic inversions, height, route, topography, load etc. The
only sure way of knowing what the actual impact will be is if a fully loaded aircraft is recorded
in situ from different monitoring positions as it goes through these operational phases.
Why has the applicant not suggested this or included even predicted noise contours
to inform the many residents who will be affected?
The consultants, do not deny that it is a very noisy machine - they report that at 10 mtrs it creates 104.1 dBA and produce the following table:
Initial Startup & Idle @ 10m Distance 98.4 dB LAeq, 5 Mins 104.1 dB LAmax
Aircraft Idling @ 15m Distance 93.9 dB LAeq, 2 Mins 99.1 dB LAmax
Hover Taxi to Take-off @ 25m Distance 92.3 dB LAeq, 30 Secs 98.6 dB LAmax
Departure @ 35m Distance 79.5 dB LAeq, 20 Secs 84.9 dB LAmax
Approach @ 25m Distance 83.8 dB LAeq, 30 Secs 92.1 dB LAmax
These figures were apparently based upon measurements of an existing Agusta Westland AW139 performing standard ground running, take-off, departure, approach and landing manoeuvres carried out at Cotswold Airfield in August 2016. However it does not state whether this was an empty or fully loaded aircraft.
This is an important omission as the baseline figures will be unreliable if the aircraft was unloaded for obvious reasons. Can we assume that the source figures were based upon an unloaded aircraft and therefore not representative of one fully loaded with passengers and luggage?
Sound complies with the 'inverse square law' basically that energy in the form of sound pressure, halves with every doubling of distance. Three decibels represents a doubling of pressure. We may therefore, using these best performance figures, calculate that at sampling point ST5/Tolver, roughly 800 m distant, the machine is likely to record a figure of between 77dBA (higher) and 62 dBA (lower) both of which greatly exceed background at that point of under 40 dBA. Even on best estimates this is more than 20 dBA above background.
(@ Source: 104dB (measured); @ 25m: 92.1dB (measured); @ 50m 89/86dB (calculated); @ 100m 86/80dB; @ 200m 83/74dB; @ 400m 80/68dB; @ 800m 77/63dB)
This is vastly different to and worse than the WYG projected Leq increases which for this site (R13/ST5) at Table 6.2 and 6.3 as follows:
Table 6.2 Worst-case Aircraft Movement Noise Levels LAeq 1 hour (Westerly Departure, Easterly Approach)
4.2 weekday; 8.4 Saturday; and 8.4 on Sunday.
Table 6.3 Worst-case Aircraft Movement Noise Levels LAeq 1 hour (Easterly Departure, Western Approach)
Table 6.3 of the WYG report suggests an increase of only 3.7 weekday; 7.7 Saturday; and 7.7 on Sunday.
Note departure noise is predicted to be significantly louder than arrival. Even so it is hard to see how the WYG report came to such a favourable assessment.
Rather ironically, figures produced in the WYG report itself, affords support for my contention that the noise levels under the flight path and adjacent to it, will be much closer to my calculations than theirs!
I suggest above, that based on their figures, noise levels at ST5/R13 will fall between 63 and 77 dB in contrast to their suggestion of 43.4dB!
However with regard to St Mary's Airport they state: "The results presented in Table 7.4 above demonstrate that the highest LAeq, 1hour noise levels from aircraft movements are predicted to be up 70.1 dB at residential properties within 200 m of the existing St Mary’s Airport runway."
That you will notice makes my estimate far more credible than theirs and should be explained by the applicant. If it is at least 70dB at St Mary's there is no reason to suppose it will be any less 200m around the Penzance Heliport is there?
National Planning Policy Guidelines (PPG) in fact quoted by WYG state categorically that increases of over 25 dB are: "Unacceptable Impact at Receptor of High Sensitivity, as it is likely to alter the character of the area despite short duration and infrequent events."
8.0 Evidence of bias in WYG Report
The noise assessment referred to by the acoustic specialists, "WYG", was commissioned by the Tresco Estate in 2016 and published only in January 2018. It can hardly be regarded as free of bias whether it is or not. On the basis of "He that pays the piper calls the tune" it is reasonable to assume the outcome would be favourable to the proposal. Indeed the report itself confirms as much for it states,
"This report presents the findings of a noise assessment undertaken in support of a full planning application for the development of a proposed heliport on land to the north of Jelbert Way, Penzance."
The evidence of subtle manipulation of the noise readings and suggested impact of the heliport and two helicopters gives credence to this suggestion.
In similar vein, the apparent public support for the scheme (approximately 10:1 in favour) on closer examination is flawed. Firstly those in favour are overwhelmingly passengers and holiday-makers who were apparently e-mailed by the developer and asked to support it. It is not clear whether in doing so they were fully aware of an alternative fixed wing and helicopter service that would in due course be available at Lands End.
In stark contrast, as someone considered to be at a "Noise Sensitive Site", I have never been contacted or consulted. Nor I believe have many more house holders and land owners who will be affected. The WYG Report is an example of how the impact has been played down in what has been described as a "very slick PR operation". We must all be aware of how these work to degrade and despoil an environment already under great pressure.
9.0 Other environmental impacts
This document has concentrated on NOISE, but decision-makers should be cognisant of other equally important impacts of the development that are hardly alluded to in the application.
Two aircraft are proposed (beside others that may use the facility from further afield) in thirty four arrivals and departures. That is up to 238 journeys per week each one of which is ten miles further than the route from Lands End or more than a third further (28 miles from Lands End) This converts to nearly 2400 additional miles every week, or 876,000 additional miles in a year.
Fuel Burn. 150 gallons/hr. Flight time @ 160 kts approximately quarter of an hour so approximately 60 hours flying time per week. So that's 9000 gals of aviation fuel a week and 32850000 gals a year. Now how much carbon and other pollutants is that when the Government states we should be emitting less?
Needless to say fuel burn and pollution is greater as the aircraft takes off or is hovering and
it is proposed to impose this down wind on anyone in its path.
10.1 The proposed Heliport development in Penzance consciously and wilfully breaches
many important Planning Policy Guidelines (PPG) that thereby place a duty on the Planning
Authority to refuse the application, unless overwhelming public benefit can be established.
10.2 These PPG's include the loss of a green field site and high quality agricultural land;
contrary to the Local District Plan; it destroys an important archaeological (Bronze Age Barrow)
site; proposed buildings and parked vehicles will have a detrimental effect on
landscape and visual amenity; the operation is intrinsically noisy and polluting that will cause
significant adverse consequences for those in the vicinity and under the flight path - potentially
many hundreds of properties and people.
10.3 Given that both fixed wing and helicopter services operate from Lands End, it is now
impossible to meet the PPG obligation to demonstrate an overwhelming public benefit or need
for this additional facility.
10.4 Given the fact that the Penzance location involves an additional twenty miles per flight,
it runs counter to all Government CO2 and pollution reduction policies.
10.5 Although the development will have many adverse consequences for residents and
environment one of the most severe and intrusive is noise. In this regard the applicants place
great reliance on a noise assessment by their agents 'WYG' that has been shown to be
unreliable and misleading.
10.6 This WYG report is biased and partial in its approach (being commissioned by the
applicant) and is defective in its methodology, results and conclusions. No reliance can or
should be placed on it by the Planning Authority in coming to an opinion on the intrusive
nature of the development.
Specifically none of the following 'Conclusions' in the report are credible:
a. "At locations within one kilometre of the proposed heliport, noise levels have been predicted to experience increases of up to 8.4 dB during the weekend daytime period.
b. "Despite a nominal increase in noise levels, it is considered that the effect of maximum of 17 aircraft departures and approaches during the daytime will not create a significant adverse impact.
c. "An assessment of the change in noise level as a result of helicopter movements has shown that sensitive receptors are predicted to experience a small increase in noise levels within or below the ‘Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level’.
d. "An assessment of the change in noise level as a result of additional helicopter movements on the Isles of Scilly has shown that sensitive receptors are predicted to experience a small increase in noise levels within or below the ‘Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level’.
e. "Therefore, and in accordance with the requirements of the NPPF and PPG: noise, the proposed development is not expected to have an adverse impact on health or quality of life."
10.7 In particular as detailed here and in an independent assessment by 'AAD', the
choice of monitoring sites close to traffic noise generation has the effect of raising background
noise baseline and does not accurately reflect much quieter rural and residential areas.
The comparative figures are thereby falsified to appear less intrusive than they will be.
10.8 Further in this regard other defects in the measurement methodology detailed here
and in the AAD report make the conclusions quite untenable. No effort was made to assess
the true impact on sensitive locations such as schools and hospitals and the increase in
noise levels have been underestimated by as much as 20dB in places.
10.9 The WYG projections are largely theoretical. Only measurements of a fully loaded
aircraft landing, taking off and in flight in the designated area should be used. Even so the
predicted noise levels for quiet locations will be intrusive and annoying.
10.10 The scheduled times and days of flights (7.30 am - 7.30 pm, seven days a week)
is excessive and allows for no relief from constant disturbance, even on Sundays. In the peak summer months there will be a take off and landing every 25 minutes with each aircraft idling for up to 9 minutes creating engine noise for 37 out of every 60 minutes. From 0730 to 1930, 7 days a week. This cannot be reasonable.
10.11 Were the application to be approved, reliant on misleading WYG noise predictions,
it would leave the Authority open to legal challenge with all that entails.
11.1 The application for a Heliport at Penzance in its present form should be refused.
11.2 If the Strategic Planning Committee is minded, despite all the cogent reasons
against, to approve the application, it cannot rely on the conclusions of the WYG Noise
Report. It is biased, defective and misleading. Only in the light of an independent noise
investigation, based on actual flight recordings of a fully loaded aircraft in situ,
should be allowed for predictive purposes.
11.3 In no event should conditions be entertained less strict than those pertaining to the
previous BA helicopter operation from Penzance. In particular there should be no flights
permitted on Sunday to provide some respite to residents.
11.4 In the unfortunate event of approval, the Planning Authority by way of Section 52
Agreement, require the applicant to introduce a scheme of compensation for those affected
to an agreed standard for insulation works, as is common with airports in the UK.
1. "The first aim of the Noise Policy Statement for England: Avoid significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life from environmental, neighbour and neighbourhood noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development." https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69533/pb13750-noise-policy.pdf
"Local planning authorities’ plan-making and decision taking should take account of the acoustic environment and in doing so consider:
- whether or not a significant adverse effect is occurring or likely to occur;
- whether or not an adverse effect is occurring or likely to occur; and
or not a good standard of amenity can be achieved.
2. "Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said: “Air pollution remains a significant threat to public health and we are committed to tackling its causes and improving air quality. This is why we are signing up to the amended Gothenburg Protocol and will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions by publishing a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-ratify-international-protocol-to-reduce-air-pollution
3. "Amber Rudd accepted the advice of the government’s statutory climate advisers, setting a target on Thursday of reducing carbon emissions 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels. The legally binding “fifth carbon budget” laid in parliament today is tougher than the carbon emissions target the UK is signed up to as part of the European Union, which requires a 40% cut by 2030 on 1990 levels.@ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/30/uk-sets-ambitious-new-2030s-carbon-target
4. "Noise needs to be considered when new developments may create additional noise and when new developments would be sensitive to the prevailing acoustic environment. When preparing local or neighbourhood plans, or taking decisions about new development, there may also be opportunities to consider improvements to the acoustic environment.At the highest extreme, noise exposure would cause extensive and sustained changes in behaviour without an ability to mitigate the effect of noise. The impacts on health and quality of life are such that regardless of the benefits of the activity causing the noise, this situation should be prevented from occurring." https://www.gov.uk/guidance/noise--2
5. "Government policy for England is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in March 2012 (paragraph 112). Decisions rest with the relevant planning authorities who should take into account the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land. Where significant development of agricultural land is demonstrated to be necessary, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land in preference to that of higher quality." file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/TIN049_edition_2.pdf
6. "On Behalf Of Isles Of Scilly Steamship Group (Neutral)
Comment submitted date: Thu 01 Mar 2018 (Edited to save space)
In setting out our observations on the application proposals we have had regard to applicable policies in the Local Plan, the successful 2017 judicial review of the application and more recent proposals by Lands End Airport (LEA) to introduce a comparable helicopter service to the Isles of Scilly.
Separate representations are being made by LEA . Helicopter service that is set to commence from Penzance Airport, operated by Specialist Aviation Services (SAS) .
Heritage (above and below ground)
The Built Heritage Assessment is likely to affect a large number of sites. The scope excludes a number of assets which may experience effects on their aesthetic value (such as the listed buildings to the north of Chyandour and those which fall outside of Penzance Conservation Area). Further, at Gulval, in addition to a Grade I listed church, there is a scheduled cross as well as Grade II listed Lychgate and a K2 telephone box although the effect on the significance of each is likely to be limited. However, in omitting these, Paragraph 128 of the NPPF has not been comprehensively applied.
The proposed development is likely to have harmful effects on a large number of assets including those listed at Grade I and in particular on the setting of those assets. These impacts are not likely to be considered 'significant' in EIA terms, but they do comprise 'less than substantial harm' under paragraph 134 of the NPPF and should be acknowledged by the Council and any harm weighed against the public benefits of the proposal. In accordance with the statutory requirements, where no substantive and deliverable public benefits exist the presumption remains in favour of refusal. Historic England as a statutory consultee has also raised concerns regarding the impact of the proposed development on the setting of the heritage assets.
An incorrect definition of setting has been applied to the assessment methodology which is not consistent with the NPPF (and as confirmed by recent Court of Appeal decisions (Mordue Judgement)). As a result, nil effect on significance is incorrectly ascribed in many cases to the assets which have been scoped into the assessment. In reality the proposals are likely to affect these assets, most notably views from St Michael's Mount and to Gulval, in which the development and the flight path would be most perceptible, and in close range views of St Gulval Church and the surrounding conservation area, where the proposals would erode its rural setting. These points were raised previously by Historic England in their representations of 31st May 2017. They have once again raised serious concerns about the impact of the proposals on the setting of various heritage assets in their representations of 9th February 2018.
We would expect a more robust assessment to acknowledge the potential harm to these assets, and as required by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the harm should be recognised by the Local Planning Authority in their decision-making and given considerable importance and weight. In the absence of material public benefits the application should be refused in accordance with the Council's duties under Section 66 (1).
In considering harm to a heritage asset the Council need to consider any alternative location as such a choice could avoid all of the identified impacts, as confirmed in the case of R. On the application of The Forge Field Society. An alternative location exists to the currently proposed site which would avoid any harm to setting which would arise as a result of the current application.
The archaeological assessment appears to be sound assuming that there are genuinely no practical alternatives to the site layout as currently proposed. As with the above ground heritage assets, the harm to the below-ground heritage assets may be avoidable if the same public benefits could be delivered at a different location altogether.
The Environmental Statement (ES)
The principal weaknesses include:
- The description of the site and surroundings is still limited and doesn't include a plan or description of the scale of development;
- There is no proper explanation as to why the scope of the ES has changed to include three new topic chapters;
- There appears to have been very little design development or assessment of the environmental impacts of the different design options;
- The ES does not clearly indicate how consultee responses have influenced the iterative design process. Details of consultation responses are limited to three entries from members of the public that were made in 2016 (Table 4.1). This has not been updated to reflect the consultation that has occurred since then e.g. our client's representations to their original application and ES or that of other key statutory consultees;
- Whilst technically an alternative site assessment has been undertaken (and so meeting the standards required of the ES), the council must be happy that the information and evidence provided as part of the chapter 4 (and Appendix 4.1 and 4.2) are technically correct and sufficiently robust to demonstrate that no real alternative exists. In this regard the assessment fails to properly address the suitability of LEA as an immediately available alternative with a named helicopter operator which would avoid all of the identified heritage and environmental impacts.; and
- The NTS does not include a plan that shows the location of the key environmental receptors.
We would recommend that the council serve a Regulation 22 notice under the EIA Regulations in order to secure the missing information from the applicant and in doing so ensuring that the ES and the assessments are complete and robust.
Socio Economic Benefits
Although not fully explained or justified in the socio-economic report, it is evident that the key benefits arising from the proposed development and resultant re-establishment of a scheduled helicopter service will be an increase in visitor numbers to the Isles of Scilly. This will generate additional spending in Penzance and on the Islands, and will therefore support a level of indirect job creation that is likely to exceed the direct job creation associated with the construction and operational phases. However, the assessment and these conclusions are now obsolete given the recent announcement of a new helicopter service to the islands from Lands End Airport, due to begin service 1 May 2018. The council must request renewed and updated evidence from the applicant to show the benefits proposed will still stand.
Putting the LEA Helicopter service aside, the addendum socio-economic assessment fails to accurately quantify the direct, indirect and catalytic impacts of the proposed development, but has instead relied upon a series of untested assumptions. The benefits are overstated and no consideration has been given to the potential negative impacts on LEA and the marine passenger service which could cancel out a number of the claimed benefits. This is a significant omission from the assessment.
Unfortunately no evidence has been provided to show that an operator has been formally engaged (or publicly notified), so we remain unsure as to how the council can be certain that a service will delivered and so in turn the promised benefits which are being so heavily relied upon in drawing the overall planning balance but more importantly, the public benefit tests required under paragraph 134 of the NPPF. There does not seem to be a proper understanding of the financial or operational viability of the proposed service and so whether the perceived benefits are capable of being delivered at all.
The application is for development on unallocated land, currently classified as open countryside and on grade 2 and 3b agricultural land (highest value agricultural land). As such the proposals conflict with policies 1 and, particularly Policy 21 of the Cornwall Local Plan. As such special circumstances must be demonstrated to the local planning authority to justify setting aside these policies. As such it is difficult to see how a second operation could be viable and hence whether any of the claimed benefits are deliverable.
Alternative site assessment
It is unclear how the assessment comes to the conclusion that the proposed Penzance location has no issues with environmental constraints given that part of the site is in flood zone 3 at the highest risk of flooding. Whilst the area is subject to Flood Risk Defence, residual risk of flooding still remains and therefore sites such as LEA which fall entirely within Flood Zone 1, and therefore at a low risk of flooding, should be considered to be a sequentially preferable site.
The dismissal of LEA as a sequentially preferable site over Penzance is incorrect. We trust the Environment Agency and Historic England are aware that a viable alternative exists and so avoids any harm, heritage impact and flood risk. As such they may need to reconsider their submissions to the Council as Statutory Consultees. Surely the proximity to Grade 1 listed Church and impact on the views from St Michael's Mount should be regarded as a sensitive receptor?
Overall Conclusions on the application proposals
- The sequential site assessment is currently flawed. It cannot be relied upon, as it stands, to properly inform the EA or HE of the alternatives that are available or to deal with the test in local Policy 21 of the Cornwall Plan with regards to protecting the highest value and most versatile agricultural land.
- An updated alternative site assessment (as per the representations made direct by LEA) would also impact the assumptions and assessments made in the ES - this will need to be updated by the applicant to properly reflect the current situation.
- The applicant needs to update the socio-economic assessment in light of this application proposing a 'second' helicopter service and so demonstrate to the council the benefits which are so heavily relied upon in the planning balance of this application still stand.
- There are heritage impacts that are considered to lead to 'less than substantial' harm, therefore triggering the test to demonstrate public benefits under paragraph 134 of the NPPF. . As well as the announcement of the new helicopter service from LEA which inevitably changes the baseline and parameters assessed under this planning application, there also remain to be flaws in some of the information provided.
7. In response to above: file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/PA16_09346-HERITAGE_IMPACT_ASSESSMENT
9.1 "Living within a daytime aircraft noise contour (at or above 55 dB) is negatively associated with
all SWB measures: lower life satisfaction, lower sense of worthwhile, lower happiness, increased
anxiety and lower positive affect balance. Revealed preference methods generally find that house
prices depreciate when affected by aircraft noise."
9.2 Quality of Life: Assessment Airports Commission
From 25 years ago!