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Radar tower approved for Cambridge Airport despite objections



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A new 43-metre radar will be built at Cambridge Airport, despite more than 100 people objecting to the plans.

The application for the H17 Radar was approved by councillors at a Joint Development Control Committee meeting earlier today (Wednesday, June 22).

People had raised concerns that noise from the new radar could negatively impact the wellbeing of those living nearby.

These concerns were raised after the experiences of some living near to the existing H16 Radar, which was built under permitted development rights in 2020.

The Marshall radar tower at the end of Sunnyside, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499799)
The Marshall radar tower at the end of Sunnyside, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499799)

Complaints were made about the continuous noise produced by the radar and the shadow flicker caused by the rotating top.

Under the plans this radar and the older AR15 Radar will be removed, and the new H17 will become the primary surveillance radar at the airport.

The plans had been recommended for approval by planning officers. In a report, officers said it was a “finely balanced decision”, recognising that there were impacts to the landscape, but that the benefits weighed in favour of the scheme.

While the H16 had been around 45 metres away from the nearest home, the H17 is planned to be around 200 metres away from the nearest home.

The Marshall radar tower at the end of Sunnyside very close to residential housing . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499819)
The Marshall radar tower at the end of Sunnyside very close to residential housing . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499819)

However, some argued this was not enough and that it should be moved off site.

Drew Winlaw, who lives near to the current H16 Radar, called on councillors to reject the application in order to “save our beautiful city”.

He said: “I know what it is like to live 150 metres away from a high powered radar. I have suffered significant loss of sleep, tension, difficulties concentrating and heightened anxiety.

“And so does my neighbour who moved away after she was prescribed medication to deal with the effects of the radar noise. She needed to take time off work and was visibly distressed when she moved out.

“Another neighbour knows of this, he moved his young family away from the area also suffering medically from the noise and the spinning of the radar.

“The sensation of being near a huge object that rotates non-stop 40 metres away above your head is unnerving, it is so close, it is audible and at times, it produces shadow flicker.

“The effects compound when it continues for days, you have not experienced that even after your site visit.”

Victor Stirling who has lived on Sunnyside since 1947 after coming out of the forces who now has the Marshall radar tower right next to his house. Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499825)
Victor Stirling who has lived on Sunnyside since 1947 after coming out of the forces who now has the Marshall radar tower right next to his house. Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499825)

Mr Winlaw continued that what had been experienced by people near the H16 Radar, was a predictor of what could happen to the “poor souls” who will live and work within the vicinity of the H17 Radar.

Councillor Matthew Howard, ward councillor for the area, said there is a mismatch between the noise modelling reports and people’s experiences.

He called for the radar to be moved off the airport’s site and claimed it was “achievable and feasible” to do so, but that it would just cost more to do so.

County Councillor for the area, Councillor Alex Bulat said she had spoken to many people about the impact on their wellbeing from the radar.

She highlighted that the 10 years proposed would not be a short period of time for the people who have to “live with this”, and asked the committee to “consider the residents’ wellbeing first and foremost”.

A representative for the applicant, Marshall Group Properties, said the new radar was critical to the airport and argued the noise would be “absolutely inaudible or at worst barely audible” at 205 metres away where the nearest homes will be.

The Marshall radar tower at the end of Sunnyside, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499796)
The Marshall radar tower at the end of Sunnyside, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell. (57499796)

He said: “Safety and security of the airport, including those living around the airport is our number one priority. The proposed radar is critical to maintaining this.

“The radar is critical to the continued success of our business, the importance of which has been further heightened with the ongoing events in Ukraine.

“As such it is critical that the 1,200 people that work at the airport and also those working in supply chains whose jobs are indirectly reliant on the airport.”

They added that the company has “exhaustively” examined where the radar could be located in order to minimise any potential adverse impacts.

He said “We have concluded that it has to be sited on the airport property in order to meet regulations. Through the noise experienced from the H16 Radar we took the decision that it needs to be re-sited 200 metres away from the nearest residential property.

“By considering the distance away from the nearest residential property, together with the safety and operational constraints the only area of the airport where the radar can be relocated is the north west part of the airport.”

They also recognised there would be a visual impact on Coldham’s Common but said this was a trade off they had made in order to protect people nearby from noise and shadow flicker from the radar.

Cllr Jocelynne Scutt raised concerns that it was not the level of noise that was the issue, but the consistent tone, and asked whether it would be possible to vary the tone of the noise.

Councillor Katie Porrer said she could not see where else the radar could go if the application was refused, even if looking off site, and said she did not want to just “pass the problem to another set of houses”.

Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins highlighted that the assessments had shown that the proposed location was not likely to have a significant effect on the noise levels and said the committee had to make a judgement using the data in front of them.

Councillor Peter Fane said he sympathised with the “damaging experiences” people faced with the H16 Radar, but said that the committee was not making a decision on that radar.

He said the committee did not have grounds to refuse the application when the noise assessment had concluded there was unlikely to be an unacceptable noise impact.

Following the discussion the application was put to a vote and was approved by the committee councillors.



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