Why I Joined CHATR

Garth Gascoigne - CHATR Treasurer. 

The events which led ultimately to my joining CHATR provide a salutary lesson. A number of years ago, shortly prior to the arrival of my first daughter, we decided that we would need more space. At the time we were living in Hammersmith but could not find anything suitable in the area. Our first preference was Chiswick but few properties came onto the market. It seemed that once people settled in the area they were reluctant to move.

We were forced to extend the area in which we were looking to include Fulham. I was aware of the potential issue of aircraft noise and asked the views of the local estate agents. Apparently hardly anyone had ever mentioned the issue of aircraft noise to them. In hindsight I understand they were just doing their job and it was naïve of me to expect otherwise. As I walked the streets the aircraft noise was definitely quite audible but in the context of the clatter of the local branch of the District Line and the occasional distant siren from the Fulham fire station it did not seem too bad. We found a house we really liked and I managed to convince myself that the aircraft noise would not be a problem.

On the first night, at approximately 4.45am, I was woken by what sounded to me like a huge juggernaut passing slowly over the house. This was then repeated at random intervals of between two and ten minutes until around 6.00am when the frequency increased further. That night I called the Heathrow noise complaint line and asked what was happening and was effectively told that this was normal. What I had crucially failed to consider was how much greater the impact of aircraft noise would be in the absence of the background noise which was present during the day.

I think I knew from the moment I made that call that I could not live beneath the flightpath. I explored every option to reduce the impact of the noise without success. I continued to be woken regularly and then once woken be unable to get back to sleep.

Eventually we were able to move from that part of Fulham to Chiswick. A couple of weeks after moving I remember waking up at around 5.00am. I still vividly recall listening to the silence and savouring it before going back to sleep. I continue to appreciate it in a way that I would not have done prior to living beneath the flightpath.

The irony is that I could find myself under the flightpath again. Although the Airports Commission recommended a ban on night flights as a condition of expansion, so far, Heathrow have refused to contemplate this possibility. Apart from self-interest one of my greatest concerns is that currently the majority of residents in Chiswick underestimate vastly the potential impact on them of being beneath the flightpath, as I had done. Even worse they may not realise this until the runway is built and it is too late.

Garth Gascoigne is a Chartered Accountant who has worked at financial services companies in the City and the West End. He has lived with his wife and three daughters in Chiswick for fifteen years.