The Environment

Government decides no cut in number of night flights;  no increase - but no reduction - in noise levels at night.

Read GACC press release (14 July 2017)

Ban all night flights by 2030, and cut the noise at night GACC responds to consultation.  Read our response.

For the rules about night flights see below.


 Night noise worse

In 2016 14,400 people were subject to an average night noise of over 48dBA, a 27% increase over 2013.  


 In February 2015 GACC organised a seminar, bringing together all the local protest groups.  One outcome of that was a joint letter presented at No 10 - see latest news.

And GACC combined with local protest groups from both Gatwick and Heathrow to present a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Transport in June 2015.

In November 2015 we were part of a delegation to Robert Goodwill MP, Aviation Minister.  We pressed for dispersal or respite, together with better representation for local communities in aviation decision making.

Noise - GACC Action 

For fifty years GACC has worked closely with our local authorities to limit, and whenever possible reduce, aircraft noise and disturbance.  With strong support from our local MPs we have put forward constructive proposals to government, many of which have been implemented.

We pressed for the installation of proper noise monitors at Gatwick, and these were installed.  We then pressed for penalties on aircraft which caused excessive noise, and these were imposed on aircraft taking-off.

We pressed hard for similar penalties on aircraft approaching Gatwick.  This campaign failed but the Continuous Descent Approach procedure (which slightly reduces approach noise) was introduced instead.

In 2001 GACC initiated and played a leading role in negotiating the s.106 agreement by which BAA accepted a legal obligation to halve the area covered by the 57 leq noise contour between 1996 and 2008.  That was achieved.

For many years GACC has been campaigning to reduce the disturbance caused by night flights at Gatwick.  We have succeeded in getting the quotas reduced, and in securing a gradual but progressive reduction in the volume of noise at night.  And the noisiest types of aircraft have been banned at night. 

Noise - Approaching Aircraft
Some years ago GACC had several meetings with Aviation Ministers to discuss disturbance by approaching aircraft, and other noise issues. In 2009 we organised a seminar to discuss methods of reducing disturbance by approaching aircraft.  This resulted in a paper on Approach Noise which we discussed with Transport Department officials, and some of our recommendations were included in the draft aviation policy published in 2011.  

In September 2011 we submitted an important Evidence Paper on Noise and Health to the Transport Department as preparation for the new White Paper.  


The A320 whine

An excruciating whine is caused by A320 type of aircraft on approach.  We are delighted that easyJet, which are the main users of A320s at Gatwick, have agreed to bring forward a small modification which will solve this problem. Letter from Carolyn McCall, easyJet CEO.

Gatwick Airport have agreed that all unmodified A320s will, after December 2017, be subject to a financial penalty.  GACC is pressing for this penalty to be high enough to force all airlines to comply.



Much of the pressure for this change came from a campaign organised by GatwickObvi-ouslyNot.  GACC, however, played a useful role.

We identified the cause of the problem, provided advice, pressed the matter repeatedly in the airport consultative committee and airport noise committee, obtained a commitment from GAL to press the issue with operators including Easyjet, and had a number of direct discussions with the senior management of Easyjet.

 The Noise Action Plan. 

Under the EU Environmental Noise Directive Gatwick is required to produce a plan to reduce noise.  We pressed in 2009 for improvements in the first Gatwick Airport Noise Action Planand are continuing to apply pressure on the airport (in conjunction with the local councils,through the airport noise committee) to implement the promises made in the Action Plan.  See Gatwick noise committee minutes.   In November 2013 Gatwick Airport suddenly produced a (slightly) revised noise action plan to run until 2018 and gave only four working days for comments.  GACC obtained a longer period for comments and informed our members.  We submitted this response

Regurgitated Noise Action Plan. 

In September 2014 Gatwick produced a new noise action plan.  But on examination it turned out to be the same document which they published in November 2013 - definitely past its sell-by date.

See note.

 Aviation Policy Framework White Paper

The Aviation Policy White Paper published in July 2012 contained a number of policies for which GACC had pressed. These included:

  1. That ‘the benefits of future technological improvements should be shared between the airport and its local communities to achieve a balance between growth and noise reduction.’ 
  2. Recognition that the 57 leq contour is not a good measure of the ‘onset of community annoyance.’   A lower noise contour to be used in future, as proposed by GACC.

  3. That tranquillity in areas of outstanding beauty should be given greater priority.

It was, however, disappointing that some of the tougher policies which GACC had proposed, and which were included in the draft White Paper, were deleted (probably as a result of lobbying by the airlines) in the final version. See press release.  GACC policies included in the draft White Paper:

  1. Stricter noise limits on departing aircraft, and higher penalties for breaches of these limits.
  2. Penalties on airlines which fail to achieve the noise reduction technique of continuous descent approach. 
  3. More noise monitors, especially under the approach paths. 
  4. Night flights to pay higher landing fees.  GACC had suggested a levy with the proceeds used to compensate local residents.

An example of white paper which looks impressive but is not as strong as it might be.

Produced annually by the Department for Transport (DfT), these maps are useful for measuring changes from one year to another, or for comparing one airport with another. They show the average noise (leq) for an average summer day. The average noise should not be confused with the maximum noise (lmax) measured in decibels (dBA)

The 57 leq contour is taken by DfT as indicating the onset of significant community annoyance, based on surveys at Heathrow. But in rural areas noise causes greater disturbance because background noise is lower, and causes more annoyance because the expectation of peace is greater.  See Ambient Noise research study.

The number of people within the Gatwick 57 leq contour was 9,000 in 2000, 3,250 in 2013 and 3,650 in 2015.    For full details and the detailed maps see CAA report.

A research study  (SoNA)  commissioned by the Department for Transport in 2014 found that the level of annoyance is considerably higher than indicated by the leq contour maps.  See SoNA report.


Aircraft landing at Gatwick are required to join the Instrument Landing System (ILS) glide slope (a straight path, in line with the runway, sloping upwards at 3º ) not lower than 2000 feet by day and 3000 feet by night. In practice many are instructed by air traffic control to join the ILS for the final 8-14 miles. Before joining this glide slope most aircraft arrive from the south, with the effect that most of Sussex is overflown.

Aircraft taking off are required to keep to Noise Preferential Routes, designed to avoid local towns. (The Standard Instrument Departure routes roughly coincide with the NPRs.).   After aircraft reach a height of 3,000 or 4,000 feet (which modern aircraft reach fairly close to the airport) they can be ‘vectored’, that is allowed by Air Traffic Control to take any route. This means that no part of Surrey, Sussex or west Kent can any longer be defined as a 'tranquil area'. 

For proposed AirSpace changes see Flight Paths.

For flight paths with a new runway, see maps.

The green lines show the paths of aircraft taking-off, the red lines the paths of aircraft coming in to land.

Gatwick Airport announced a new noise insulation scheme (2 February 2014).  It is welcome that this covers a wider area, and provides larger grants.  But, of course, it does not solve the noise problem for those who like to have their windows open, or who wish to be in their garden, or who wish to visit any of the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty around Gatwick.  
For some years the CDA procedure has been in force for aircraft arriving at Gatwick.  Aircraft descend in a continuous 'glide' rather than, as previously, in a series of steps.  This makes some reduction in noise, mainly from 10 – 25 miles from the airport. 
The point at which CDA starts has recently been raised from 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet, meaning that continuous descent starts further out.

Details are given in a CAA booklet.

Maximum noise limits for aircraft taking off are 94 dBA by day; 89 dBA between 2300 and 2330, and between 0600 and 0700. At night, between 1130 and 0600, the limit is 87 dBA. The noise levels are measured by noise monitors situated approximately 6.5 km from the start of take-off. There are penalties (£500, or £1,000 for a serious breach) on aircraft which exceed the limits, and these are paid into a Community Fund. But because the limits have not been reduced since before March 2002, when the noisy Chapter 2 aircraft were banned, few aircraft now exceed the limits. There are no limits on noise caused by aircraft on approach.

GACC has pressed the Department for Transport to reduce the noise limits, and a reduction was  contained in the Draft Aviation Policy
Framework.  but no action has been taken.   In the 1990’s GACC campaigned for noise limits to be imposed on aircraft when landing, as for taking-off.  This was subject to a major study by the Department for Transport with ten noise monitors deployed between Gatwick and Tunbridge Wells.  But in the end objections from the airlines killed off the idea.  GACC has pressed the Department to re-consider the scheme based on the annual average performance of each airline.

According to the Department for Transport, aircraft departing from Gatwick in 2005 emitted 4.4 million tonnes of CO2.   The latest DfT forecast is for 3.8 million tonnes in 2030  This makes it one of the most CO2 producing sites in the South East.

Gatwick Airport, in August 2009, published a report on Gatwick and climate change.   Read this report.     In it they state that:  "Climate change is a serious global issue and one of the greatest threats facing the world today.  In the UK, CO2 emissions from UK aviation doubled between 1990 and 2000, whilst the combined activities of the rest of the UK reduced by about 9%.   The UK has the highest volume of [aviation] CO2 emissions in Europe." 

GACC has produced a critique of this report.   Read this important document.

See also GACC booklet (2007):  Gatwick - wrecking climate change targets.

The Climate Change Act 2008 set a target to reduce UK domestic greenhouse gas emissions - excluding aviation -  by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  The official Climate Change Committee, charged with implementing the Act, has set a target for the aviation industry - to reduce aircraft CO2 emissions to 2005 levels by 2050.  They have stated that demand for air travel will need to be limited to an increase of 60%, and the increase in flights to 55%.   Even if aviation emissions are reduced to 2005 levels by 2050, the rest of industry will have to make cuts of 85%.

The Government Response was published in August 2011.   For GACC policy recommendations see Climate Change Choices

The noisiest types of aircraft are banned between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am. The number of flights between 11.30 pm and 6.00 am is limited by a quota - at present 11,200 in the summer (seven months) and 3,250 in winter.  

There is also a separate quota system based on noise, with noisy aircraft using more points. Aircraft are classified as QC1, QC2, QC4 etc. A QC4 aircraft uses four points and makes twice as much noise as a QC2. A QC2 uses two points and makes twice as much noise as a QC1. There has been a change in classification which makes it difficult to compare past and future figures.
In 2006 the Government announced its decision on the number of night flights from Gatwick for the six years 2007 - 2012. The number of night flights remained at roughly the previous level but there was a gradual 10% reduction in the amount of noise permitted at night. The noisiest aircraft were banned (except when delayed). GACC welcomed this small improvement. GACC press release
There has been no change in the quotas since 2012.

Gatwick has more night flights than Stansted, and twice as many as Heathrow. The total level of noise permitted at night each year at Gatwick is greater than at Stansted but less than at Heathrow.
As a result of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010 peace and quiet descended on the Gatwick area for six days.  GACC undertook a survey of public reactions.  Impressions of Silence.

The most serious threat to the health of local residents, particularly those suffering from respiratory problems such as bronchitis or asthma, is NO2.   Reigate and Banstead Borough Council have expressed concern that in parts of Horley pollution levels are only slightly below EU limits - which became legally binding in 2010. For further details click here.
Air Quality - GACC response to Airports Commission - response.


With an average of around 80,000 passengers a day, and around 21,000 employees on airport, Gatwick generates a large volume of road traffic. This adds to congestion on the M25, and is particularly serious on the rural roads east and west of the airport. It also adds to local pollution.

For many years the airport has had a target that 40% of passengers should arrive or depart by public transport (to reduce pollution and pressure on the road system). The target was achieved for the first time in 2010.  The proportion of staff traveling by public transport has increased as a result of the new Fastway bus system but is still only about 25%

P R O T E C T I N G   T H E   G A T W I C K   A R E A