Nickie Aiken MP outlines her progress in tackling helicopter noise in central London. This is often caused by police helicopters managing protests and Nickie has been calling on the Met to make greater use of drone technology to minimise the use of helicopters. In the article below, Nickie reports back on a recent meeting with the Met Police and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse. If you have been affected by helicopter noise, you can register your concerns with Nickie via this webpage.
Complaints from local people about helicopters constantly flying above the Two Cities have filled my mailbag for some time.
Central London, and specifically in and around Parliament Square, Whitehall and latterly Hyde Park have attracted thousands of people protesting about a wide range of issues. There are around 500 protests or marches a year in Westminster alone.
There is a huge difference between a peaceful vigil or demonstration where people come together to express shared grief, outrage or calls for policy change and protests that take place day after day for weeks on end which can occasionally bring unpleasant disruption to those living and working locally.
Central London has seen changes in the ways that protests are organised, and their longevity. Protests are now not always organised by specific groups. They are “movements” often with different aims or objectives such as Extinction Rebellion. Many come to protest peacefully, others may have the aim of causing disruption and even destruction.
I believe passionately in the right to protest. It is one of the values we hold so dear in this country. However, the use of the helicopter circling above us for hours at a time has become a real issue for those of us who live and work in the Two Cities. That is why I have been lobbying Ministers and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to consider using less intrusive drone technology rather than helicopters. There is also the important environmental issue that helicopters cause more air quality problems when idling for such long periods. I have had meetings with Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP, and the Deputy Commissioner of the MPS, Sir Steve House, to discuss the matter and push for more drones to be used to police protests.
The MPS is taking these concerns seriously and last week invited me to join the Minister and the senior MPS team, including the Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick and Sir Steve House, at the Met Specialist training centre in Kent to watch a demonstration of its aviation capabilities and to hear about plans to expand the use of drones. It was a fascinating morning where I saw how the MPS uses air support in policing operations during protests and public order concerns.
It was apparent from my visit that the MPS is progressing its strategy to use more drone technology and be less reliant on helicopters. I certainly think that the police will begin to rely on helicopters less and less as drone technology evolves, battery life extends and the images from their cameras improve. I would expect that helicopters may still be needed for some elements of policing protests but hopefully for not as long a periods as we currently experience.
I am delighted that the MPS is taking your and my concerns about over-reliance on helicopters very seriously. I will continue to work with both the Home Office and the MPS to ensure they embrace the use of drone technology as quickly as possible.
If you live in the Two Cities and have been affected by helicopter noise, you can register your concerns with Nickie via this webpage.