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COUNCIL UNCOVERS£80M SHORTFALL IN AIRPORT OPERATOR'S SCHOOLS INSULATION PROGRAMME

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A BAA scheme designed to protect schools form aircraft noise could 'put children at risk' say local government offi...
A BAA scheme designed to protect schools form aircraft noise could 'put children at risk' say local government officers.

The airport operator's community buildings programme, to be launched this week, will provide£5m a year over five years to help insulate schools and other public buildings under the Heathrow flight path.

But property experts from Hounslow LBC have discovered that the real cost of bringing schools in line with national noise standards in its borough alone is a staggering£103.6m. This represents a shortfall in funding for Hounslow's schools in excess of£80m.

The council's head of environmental strategy, Rob Gibson, said:

'We have long suspected that the BAA scheme was inadequate but these figures confirm our worst fears. There is a serious shortfall in funding that could put local children at risk and condemn a generation of young people to an education blighted by incessant aircraft noise.

'With the financial package BAA is proposing, it will take decades to finish the job. We need a scheme that will protect today's schoolchildren, not a scheme that may protect their grandchildren.'

BAA rejected a council-backed scheme to protect schools from aircraft noise in the summer of 2005. The council has subsequently undertaken extensive research into the cost of bringing its 79 schools in line with government regulations. According to this new research, the cost of meeting the noise and ventilation standards for schools laid down by the DFES in the borough of Hounslow alone is£103.6m.

BAA's new scheme, which will provide£25m over five years, is intended to resolve the problems experienced by those using schools and community buildings not just in Hounslow, but in the many boroughs under the Heathrow flight path.

Aircraft noise is becoming an increasingly serious problem in schools around the country and is expected to worsen as demand for air travel continues its upward trend. In Hounslow's schools, over 70 per cent of teachers say that aircraft noise is a problem. Their concerns are supported by recent scientific research showing that repeated exposure to aircraft noise impairs children's reading, comprehension and memory.

Officials from Hounslow LBC have already held high level talks with the Department for Education and Skills about the issue and are pressing for a debate in the House of Commons.

Mr Gibson said:

'We are doing all we can to ensure that local children can enjoy a first class education in schools that meet international standards for noise and ventilation'.

Kathryn Harper-Quinn, headteacher at Hounslow Heath Infant and Nursery School added:

'Schools under the flight path need quality insulation and ventilation because the disruption is considerable.'

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