Agenda item

Kings College Hospital, Ruskin Wing, Denmark Hill (Herne Hill) 20/00383/VOC

Officers’ recommendations:



1.    Resolve to grant conditional planning permission.


2.    Agree to delegate authority to the Director of Planning, Transport and Sustainability to finalise the recommended conditions as set out in this report, addendums and/or PAC minutes.


Case No. 20/00383/VOC (agenda item two, page one of the agenda pack, page one of the addendum and page one of the second addendum).


The Planning Officer gave a presentation which included a summary of the report and subsequent addenda that had been published on Friday 22 May 2020 and the day of the meeting. Members were advised of the key material planning issues for consideration which included the request to permit 24-hour operation of the helipad for a temporary period of 3 years in connection with medical emergencies. The existing permission was subject to a condition requiring the monitoring of night flights.  It was proposed to amend this condition to require the provision of additional monitoring data.  The data log would need to be submitted at the end of the 3 year period, or at any other time at the request of the local planning authority. Noise impact assessment was conducted at eight locations against the World Health Organisation guidelines of 65dB, where awakenings due to aircraft noises may occur. The figures from 2019 showed 89 recordings within a year, where the majority occurred during the summer period. The complaints data suggested that 37 awakenings occurred during this time.


Following the officer’s presentation, the objector raised the following concerns:

·         Ruskin Park House was high up on the hill and a volume of 90 decibels had been recorded by residents.

·         Residents were woken up if the helicopter were to arrive at 3am and would stay awake until it took off at 4am, and the first Heathrow flight would take off at 4:30am. This had sometimes occurred twice a week at the beginning of the operation.

·         The quality of residents’ lives had materially changed and they would like to be consulted further.

·         They proposed a further one-year extension to the night flights for further data to be collected, as well as a McDonnell Douglas helicopter be used.


The applicant and representative then provided the following information in support of the application:

·         In the first year of night landings an improved patient outcome was delivered as well as the maintaining of the predicted number of flights.

·         They did not anticipate an increase in the number of landings in the next three years, but a possible decrease due to other hospitals starting to provide night flying operations.

·         The relative infrequency of flights was reflected in the limited number of complaints received but noted that the concerns of some occupiers of Ruskin Park House. Pilots had been advised to adjust their flight path where weather permitted, to avoid this particular approach. This had successfully reduced the number of complaints from summer last year.

·         The night crew were the only enhanced care resource in the south east, and the reduced journey had meant that there was an improved patient outcome for time critical incidents.

·         The 24-hour availability of the Kings helipad improved the health services to the 4.8 million people they served.


Officers then provided the following information in response to questions from Members:

·         Maudsley Hospital was consulted about the scheme. However, the top two levels of Ruskin Wing were vacant and the two below were offices, and no complaints were registered by patients or staff.

·         The noise levels from a helicopter were distinctive, but the overall sound energy would be broadly similar to street noise and would capture a representative of the noise that was perceived by the human ear.

·         Technological constraints were initially the reason why noise receptors were not installed in Ruskin Park House. The locations assessed were located on the predominant flight path. The worst-case scenarios were assessed, where there was no shielding from other buildings, to capture the data and make the most effective decisions.

·         A three-year period was chosen to allow more data to be collected and ensure the number of flights were within the agreed amount.

·         A noise reading was taken with no helicopters to measure the existing road noise levels. The readings with helicopter noises were pointed directly towards the helicopters as part of the worst-case scenarios.

·         Due to the live planning application with the Council, it was not considered reasonable to require the applicant to cease operating night flights during the Covid-19 pandemic.

·         The annual cap on flights was a measure to ensure increased security from the previous application. It was not predicted to have an increase in flights from 2019 figures.


Whilst questions from Members were beginning, Councillor Simpson advised the meeting that her internet connection had been lost briefly. The Chair and the Planning Officer reprised the relevant replies for Councillor Simpson and she was satisfied that she was able to continue to participate in the item.


The Committee considered points raised by speakers and information provided by officers in conjunction with the report before making the following observations:

·         Members thanked officers for the thought put into the application and the associated conditions. They were encouraged by the estimated flight numbers having been broadly accurate.

·         Members acknowledged that there would be an impact on neighbours but on balance considered that the public benefit generated by the continued availability of 24 hour flights in medical emergencies had to outweigh the impact on neighbouring amenity.

·         Members were content with the three-year period proposed in the application, which struck an acceptable balance between a one year period and a five year period.

·         Members expressed their disappointment that the complaints website was not ready when needed. The hope was expressed that the applicant would continue to engage with affected residents.


It was MOVED by Councillor Wilcox, SECONDED by Councillor Kind, and


RESOLVED, unanimously


1.    To GRANT conditional planning permission.


2.    To delegate authority to the Director of Planning, Transport and Sustainability to finalise the recommended conditions as set out in the report, addendums and/or PAC minutes.


Supporting documents: