Runway plan doesn’t fly in Edgemead

A map showing how the noise levels spread into the Edgemead area.

It was clear from an Edgemead community meeting last week that residents would like nothing more than for the proponents of a plan to shift a runway at the city’s airport and feed lots of big, noisy aircraft over their heads to take a flying jump.

After getting hundreds of letters of objections from Edgemead residents about the plan, representatives from the Cape Town International Airport, including its environmental manager Sean Bradshaw, and SRK Consulting, the firm doing the environmental impact assessment (EIA), received a frosty welcome from residents at the Edgemead community hall on Wednesday August 10.

The airport and EIA representatives were there to talk to residents about the impact of the plan on the neighbourhood.

The residents first heard about the runway realignment in May last year.

It proposes rotating the airport runway counter-clockwise by 11.5 degrees. This would allow it be lengthened to accommodate larger aircraft, such as the Airbus 380.

But the realignment will increase air traffic over Edgemead and Bothasig, among other areas.

The airport concedes it could also raise noise levels by one to three decibels, produce more air pollution and drop property values.

The atmosphere was tense in the hall as the EIA and airport representatives elaborated on steps to dampen noise levels in the area. But this did little to dampen residents’ blood pressure.

Residents asked whether alternative airport models had been investigated and if it was possible to realign the runway to feed air traffic over industrial areas such as Montague Gardens instead of Edgemead, especially, residents argued, since they had not known about the runway plans when they moved into the area.

Edgemead resident André du Plessis said residents were already “wakker geruk” when “rogue” planes flew over the neighbourhood.

Another resident said a three-decibel increase would be double the current noise level in Edgemead.

Riccardo Gramatica said the presentation had not been held out of concern for the community but simply to tick off the community participation box.

“This is not a consultation; they’re telling us what is done. It is a joke,” said Mr Gramatica.

Edgemead Residents’ Association chairman Emile Coetzee said residents felt let down by a process that seemed to offer them little choice.

“If you’ve consciously bought property under the existing flight path and you feel you can live with it, great. For those now living under the proposed flight path, there will be no choice in the matter,” he said.

“Numerous residents already report that when we have rogue planes pass over Edgemead they are unable to have a conversation in their home or can no longer hear their TV. If you then consider Edgemead under the new flight path, we could potentially be experiencing a plane overhead every three to five minutes during peak times.”

Mr Bradshaw said that assuming a worst case scenario with the airport at full capacity, Edgemead could experience an increase from one flight every five to six minutes, to one flight every three minutes during morning and afternoon peaks.

The noise levels are estimated to affect 344 831 people during peak hours and 286 113 people when noise reducing measures are in place.

Property values are also expected to decline by 0.7 percent for every one decibel increase in noise.

“The impact zone is reduced because of mitigation, but a high number of people will still be affected by noise. Noise levels will be less indoors with windows closed.

“We will have real-time monitoring so that residents can do their own investigations when a noisy plane flies overhead,” said Mr Bradshaw.

“We will create an online platform where residents can see which plane flew above their home.

“We want to get into a far more predictable space where we know which aircraft performs variations and moves away from the rules.”

Residents heard that it was not financially feasible to develop a new airport with runways streaming aircraft away from residential areas.

An SRK Consulting slideshow, presented by Mr Bradshaw, said it could cost R45.6 billion to develop a new airport, including the costs of the land and bulk infrastructure, and the 9000 people working at Cape Town International would have to be relocated.

The EIA report on the runway realignment is still available for comment until Thursday August 25 and can be viewed on the following website www.srk.co.za/en/cape-town-international-airport-runway-re-alignment-eia