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Experts’ doubts over Lakenheath homes plans’ jet noise reports

F-35A Lightning IIs will be coming to RAF Lakenheath (USAF photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
F-35A Lightning IIs will be coming to RAF Lakenheath (USAF photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A specialist’s review of noise assessments for four proposed developments in Lakenheath has thrown doubt on their findings.

The review was commissioned by Lakenheath Parish Council from the consultants Clarke Saunders Acoustics because of concerns about the adequacy of noise assessments put before Forest Heath’s Development Control Committee with planning applications for homes at Eriswell Road, Briscoe Way and Rabbithill Covert plus homes and a school in Station Road.

Clarke Saunders has ‘significant concerns’ about the assessments and adds: “The exposure of existing dwellings to high noise levels from military jet movements does not justify a similar level of impact on new residential communities and a new school.”

The report says noise tests used in the assessments were from 2013 and ‘14 and did not take account of new F-35s coming to RAF Lakenheath. It criticises the short periods of testing, which ranged from 6.5 hours to eight days.

Plans propose noise mitigation in buildings but the report says they do not cater for military jets’ low frequency noise, measures only work with closed windows and they cannot protect outdoor areas especially at the school.

Planning standards say playground noise should be below 55 decibels (dB) or 50dB in outdoor teaching areas, but site tests recorded up to 71db.

The report says: “Screening methods to reduce these levels to below 55dB will not be feasible without enclosing the space completely, let alone a reduction to the optimal value of below 50dB.”

It says the mechanical ventilation needed to meet sound level standards in school buildings was ‘unlikely to be an attractive financial option’.

A Forest Heath Council spokesman said: “There is no new noise data included in this report – it contains the views of one the consultant appointed by the parish council.

“We are seeking the views of the applicants’ own noise consultants, relevant experts within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation as well as our own advisers.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “The council has recently submitted a planning application for the new school. Once this has been validated, the parish council will be able to view this and respond as part of the consultation process.”

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