Essendon airport changes worry locals

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Residents are furious about planned curfew changes and proposals to allow large commercial jets carrying passengers and freight at Essendon Airport. Charlotte Butcher reports.

Local residents are furious about planned curfew changes that would allow  large commercial jets carrying passengers and freight to use Essendon Airport.

Residents are warning about increased noise, pollution and increased danger to families living near the runways if the federal government goes ahead with plans to increase air traffic.

“It is inappropriate for the government to consider changes that would result in increased traffic at the airport (during these) times,” said Peter Khalil, Federal MP for Wills.

The airport’s location only 13 km from Melbourne’s central business district and easing the number of flights to nearby Melbourne Airport are behind the plans to allow an extra 18 services a week.

Local resident Jorja Dunne sayss they should not have to suffer the increased congestion, noise and risk from landing planes in one of Melbourne’s most heavily populated areas.

Ms Dunne said residents are increasingly fearful following the recent crash of a four seater commercial airplane into a nearby shopping centre only minutes after take-off.

“I have fears for the safety of locals after the last air traffic catastrophe, as the trauma experienced by local witnesses will always be in the back of (residents’) minds,” she said.

Essendon Airport was once one of Australia’s busiest airports, with pioneering aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith having a large influence on operations.

The airport was used for international flights and airlines up until 1970 when Melbourne Tullamarine was built to cope with the increased traffic.

It is now largely used for regional carriers, private commercial jets, helicopters and as an engineering and servicing centre.

“I am extremely concerned for the welfare of local residents because noise levels will worsen further and interfere further at undesirable times,” said Mr Khalil.

The continuous exposure to loud noise threatens the health and hearing of local residents, according to analysis by WorkSafe, a government body that monitors industrial health issues.

“Questions remain unanswered about the safety of the airport, especially given the close proximity of commercial and residential developments,” he said.

Residential demand for houses in the area is increasing, which potentially places more local residents in danger if there was an another accident, he said

Proposed flight routes are also over some of the local community’s popular community and sporting areas, he said.

“I also have serious concerns at the lack of time for public consultation”, he said.

A spokesman for Essendon Airport denied the allegations of increased noie and danger.

The spokesman said the proposed arrangements will result in fewer night flights and less noise for local residents.