Noise pollution worries for Western Sydney Airport flight paths
Residents say they feel left in the dark about whether their homes will fall under the flight paths of the new Sydney airport. (Reuters, file photo)
Western Sydney Airport construction to start this year, but flight paths still unknown
The suburbs that could face high noise pollution when Sydney’s new airport opens in less than a decade are yet to be determined.
- The flight paths for the new Western Sydney Airport are still unknown
- Residents may hear sounds from the planes at 60 decibels or more
- A noise consultant says it may wake people up or disturb their sleep
Flight path designs for the Western Sydney Airport site in the city’s south-west — which is in the early stages of construction — remain up in the air, and the noise of planes flying overhead could be loud enough to disturb the sleep of some residents.
The Federal Government approved the first stage of the project, an airport with a single runway, in 2016 after an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was considered.
The statement included a noise study based on concept flight paths, however the real designs are not expected to be made public for consultation until 2021.
Some residents might hear sound from the planes at levels above 60 decibels even at night.
This is according to Barry Murray, an acoustic consultant who wrote the noise report, who told the ABC: “You may wake up, but apart from wakening, the noise can disturb someone’s sleep.”
Acoustic consultant Barry Murray has raised concerns about disturbance to residents’ sleep. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)
Sixty decibels is the level of a normal conversation.
“They may not be aware of the noise, but it affects the level of sleep and therefore the rest they get from that sleep,” Mr Murray said.
Mr Murray said those close to the airport could get a clearer idea about the noise they would experience by examining the modelling in the airport’s EIS.
“Flight paths are unlikely to change close to the airport, so if they live close to the airport, they can rely on that [EIS] heavily,” he said.
“If they’re much further out, like 10 kilometres plus from the airport, then that information is of use to get an indication of what could happen.”
Fears for Blue Mountains
Some of the greatest concerns about the design are coming from people in the Blue Mountains, where it is feared that the tranquillity of the World Heritage-listed area could be lost if planes were to fly overhead.
The Greater Blue Mountains Area is protected bushland and World Heritage-listed. (ABC News: Ross Byrne)
“I don’t believe there should be any construction at that airport until residents who are going to be affected are consulted, and know where the flight paths are going to be,” Blue Mountains Council Mayor Mark Greenhill said.
“The community is unaware of who is going to be affected, how they’re going to be affected, and what impact it’s going to have on their quality of life.
“My fear is, by the time people know, progress will have been made on construction, sufficient for the Government to argue that it can’t be stopped.”
Airspace design process takes ‘years’
The Federal Government, which is in charge of flight path design, has stressed that the public would be properly consulted about it.
“I can understand that people might be anxious about this,” Federal Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge said.
“But we want to provide the reassurance that we will be consulting very thoroughly, we’ll be taking their views into account.
“These processes always take several years, simply because of the complexity of the air traffic generally across Sydney.
“The Environmental Impact Statements which need to be done, [are part of] a really proper, thorough community consultation process, we put out drafts and then consult again, but [that] will be done well before the airport opens in 2026.
“There will be the most stringent noise protections in place of any airport in Australia.”
Graham Millett, chief executive of Western Sydney Airport Corporation, said the local community would be informed every step of the way until the project is complete.
Graham Millett said community feedback would be taken on board by the Western Sydney Airport Corporation. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)
“There is a small group of people with concerns that we need to address, but by and large our surveys have shown the majority of local residents are very much in favour of the benefits this airport brings,” Mr Millett said.
“In terms of the communication to the local community, undoubtedly we’re going to be doing more and more and more to ensure the community is as informed as it can be.
“We take their feedback on board and that we incorporate that feedback into the design and construction of the airport.”
Changes happening now
For residents who live close to the airport site, their community is already undergoing massive change.
When a runway is built, John Carpani will be living at its south-west end.
John Carpani will be living at the south-west end of the Western Sydney Airport’s runway. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)
A major road that currently runs through the airport site is being diverted through what used to be his property.
“My intention when I bought here was for serenity, peace and quiet,” Mr Carpani told the ABC.
“I wouldn’t have bought the property had I known the road was coming though.”
“I wouldn’t have been interested in it one bit.”
Some of Mr Carpani’s family wanted to move to the area, but one thing stopped them: uncertainty about noise pollution from the air traffic.
“I told them to get right away from this side of the city, go over [to] the north, just keep away from it all,” he said.
Wayne Wilmington is the head of the Progress Association in the town of Luddenham, which sits next to the airport site.
Wayne Wilmington has lived in Luddenham his entire life and says the town has accepted the airport is going ahead. (ABC News: Jonathan Hair)
He said residents had accepted the airport was going ahead, but they wanted certainty.
“The people have known the airport is going to be built, for sure, since the 1990s, so I think they’ve grown used to that, used to the talk of the airport, but they just want to know what’s going to happen,” Mr Wilmington said.
“We often hear people say they don’t know whether to do improvements to their homes, or what to do because of that … a lot of residents are still in limbo.”