Today I was woken again by the screaming sound of aircraft flying over my house.
I have lived in Cowfold in a two bedroom labourer’s cottage, down a lane, surrounded by fields for nearly nine years and it has been a joy to be here.
I am a sculptor, I walk across the fields every morning often taking photos of unusual natural sights. My studio is in the garden and I work with the doors open in the summer.
We have no shops just here, no bus stops or stations, we don’t hear road noise, and we are over 20 miles from Gatwick. What we had until now was quiet, bird song (including being a hotspot for nightingales), and countryside.
Yes we heard helicopters, hot air balloons and the occasional Lancaster bomber or Spitfire on the way to a show but nothing that was lasting enough to be a problem.
Before this we lived in Horley for 19 years and finally moved because we could not tolerate the background of commercial aircraft and road noise, so we very particularly looked for somewhere this was not an issue.
I had no complaints until the 22nd April this year when it all changed and aircraft started to fly directly over from 7.20 in the morning until after midnight at times, and sometimes even in the dead of night. I knew that Warnham was experiencing terrible noise due to changes in the take-off routes, but we hadn’t had any problems when complaints were being voiced there. Also we are miles from the take-off routes.
After days of this noise I was working with ear defenders and sleeping with earplugs to block out the sound. I contacted the Gatwick noise line and was told that my problems were only because flight operations were from the Easterly direction which is 30 per cent of the time, it was arrivals not take offs that I was hearing, and it was just the same as last year but with more traffic.
They said that it ‘just may be more apparent’ after a prolonged period of operations being from the West. This is not true. We have never been directly flown over at a low altitude in eight-and-a-half years, I have never needed earplugs and I had never thought to make any complaint before.
Now over two months later our experience of being here is dire. My garden seems to be owned by Gatwick. More than 60 per cent of the time aircraft fly directly over our property in a constant very precise stream at around 6,000ft, some make a particular high pitched whine and as one fades the next scream is already starting. This can be more than 40 in an hour. They stack over us anything from 10,000 down to 5,000 feet as they leave the stack, they go round up to three times, banking sharply and low enough so that we can see the detail of the company they are flying for.
One Sunday before 8am two aircraft were banking round so close to each other it was as if they were flying in giant formation, doubling the noise, and heralding that another sunny weekend day would be completely marred.
Other planes cut directly across from the coast now on their return whichever way Gatwick is operating, and they pass over at 5,000/6,000 feet too. One visitor said that it was quieter at her home in Broadfield where she can see the runway at night.
Yet consultations don’t recognise that there is such an issue with planes at this height and this far from the airport. They don’t realise that it is intolerable with no other noise to mask it. The ‘screamers’ are apparently Airbuses and quite obviously aircraft don’t need to make this pitch of sound as not all of them do it at this height.
We still can’t find out what has happened and whether this is now permanent. We are located outside the noise bands of existing arrivals patterns shown in the current Gatwick Consultation documents dated March 2014, which proves that the change is since.
So what is the motivation for coming this far south suddenly? Will it only get worse with the planned increases in passenger numbers (or even more worrying, the second runway), or is it due to temporary experiments with new navigation systems?
All round us people are campaigning to stop the new Market Town of Mayfield being built, yet all I can think is that the undeveloped countryside around the Horsham and Crawley districts is already ruined by Gatwick. This is not a future threat, it is now.
It doesn’t just destroy quiet places for those who live here, but also for everybody who studies or simply enjoys the special wildlife in this area, everybody coming here to walk, or just looking for temporary peace away from town traffic.
Are we now targeted just because the countryside has fewer residents to complain? Can we not campaign louder because it affects us more? Even if any one of us has to move to continue their life, why should everybody lose in this way?
So my question is does anyone know what is Gatwick trying to do and can we get together and stop it ruining the countryside?
Moatfield Lane, Cowfold