Major flight paths criss-cross over plenty of covetable areas of the UK. Eleanor Doughty explores what it’s like to live with a 747 soundtrack and whether it affects property values.
Picnicking on the banks of the Thames in Runnymede, four miles from Windsor, you see them before you hear them: the aeroplanes. Welcome to flight-path land, a collection of regions of the UK in which people voluntarily subject themselves to living directly under soaring engines, to hearing that familiar rumbling, day in, day out.
Some hate it, others barely notice. One of the latter group, Amelia Daniel, who works for Strutt & Parker and lives in Fulham, west London, says it’s not so bad. Moving there, ‘we were aware that we’d probably end up hearing all the planes coming into Heathrow. Two years later, I don’t notice it at all’. Still, she adds, it isn’t ideal. ‘It’s saddening that there is so much airborne traffic that you just become accustomed to it. The noise isn’t the biggest issue here, it’s the environmental impact.’
Indeed, according to stats from the National Air Traffic Control Services, in May 2019, there were more than 235,000 flights over UK airspace, with a record 9,000 flights using British skies in a single day. In 2018, more than 1,300 flights a day were recorded at Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport.
Some people actively choose to live close to the action. Jason Corbett, director of country sales and lettings at Sotheby’s International Realty, lives in Charlwood, Surrey, under the Gatwick flight path. ‘I can hear the aeroplanes taking off, but I travel a lot and the convenience of living within five minutes of both terminals absolutely outweighs the impact of the noise.’
Windsor, where average house prices are £556,772 according to Zoopla, ‘bears the greatest burden of flight-path noise,’ says Nick Wooldridge of Stacks Property Search, adding, ‘I’ve often wondered how The Queen puts up with it’. He continues: ‘It doesn’t seem to put people off wanting to live there and doesn’t negatively impact property pricing. You simply put up with it.’
Smallfield, a village in Surrey under the Gatwick flight path, was home to Amanda Sharpe, who worked in PR, for several years. She agrees that the convenience of having a major airport within easy travelling distance is appealing. ‘It can often be a reason for people wanting to move into the area. It’s widely accepted that you will have some noise here, but the advantages of excellent schools, thriving villages, shops, lovely pubs and accessibility more than compensate.’
However, it’s clear that, in some areas, house prices can suffer. In the West Country, Bristol airport is one such culprit. James McKillop, a partner in Knight Frank’s country department, explains that the firm ‘recently sold a property in Winford that would have been significantly more expensive without the proximity of Bristol airport’.
Further afield, other kinds of flight noise can be a factor for would-be buyers. ‘Typically, people move to the Cotswolds to enjoy a more peaceful environment and there is an assumption that there isn’t any plane noise once you’re away from Heathrow and Gatwick,’ points out Harry Gladwin, partner at Knight Frank’s The Buying Solution.
That said, in Oxfordshire, noise from Brize Norton, the largest RAF base and the home of the 34,000kg (33.5 tons) Hercules, affects local villages, including Alvescot, Wilkins and Lew, adds Mr Gladwin. ‘These are pretty villages, so there will always be buyers willing to accept this compromise, but the presence of these large planes does have an impact on value. In many cases, prices can be discounted by as much as 20%.’
This year, we can expect some serious movement in the market, says Penny Churchill, who expects delightful country houses such
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