25th July 2006

Government concedes on night flights numbers cap

The Government has conceded defeat in its attempts to remove the limits on night flight numbers at Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick which it had been seeking through the Civil Aviation Bill.

The news came in a letter from Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman to Conservative Shadow Transport Spokesman Chris Grayling dated 20 July. It follows intensive lobbying by groups including Stop Stansted Expansion, coupled with cross party opposition to the Government’s proposals in the House of Lords where Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, has spearheaded the fight to protect local residents by retaining the limit on the number of night flights.

The Government had been attempting to move towards a weighted ‘noise quota’ system alone to assess and limit the disturbance caused by night flights without the added check as at present of a limit on the actual number of aircraft flying between the hours of 11.30pm and 6am at the UK’s three largest airports. The House of Lords defeated the proposal on three separate occasions and the Aviation Minister has now made clear that the Government will not try to reinstate the clause calling for powers to remove the movements cap when the Bill completes its passage through Parliament in the autumn.

Reliance on the noise quota count system would have disregarded the very substantial impacts which frequent overflying has in areas with low background noise. Virtually all night flights using Stansted disturb the peace over vast swathes of rural Essex, Herts and Suffolk, hence the importance of retaining limits on the number of night flights as well as the aggregate noise output.

Commenting on the news, Stop Stansted Expansion’s Acting Chairman Norman Mead said: “The Government’s acceptance of the need to retain overall limits on the number of night flights at Stansted is welcome news but it doesn’t solve the problem caused by the current number of night flights, nor does it address the prospect of vastly increased levels in the future as allowed even under current night flying limits. We must remain vigilant to the likelihood that the levels of permitted flights at Stansted could simply be raised in the next night flying restrictions period, from 2012.”

Stansted already suffers 8370 night flights annually during the 6.5 hour restricted ‘night’ period (based on figures to 31 March 2006) an average of 23 flights nightly with the possibility of an increase of 43 percent within the currently permitted limits of 12,000 flights annually over the next six years.

Speaking from the Palace of Westminster, Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst added: “This is a very helpful development and we owe a great deal of gratitude to the pressure applied by Lord Hanningfield and others in the House of Lords. Today’s news shows that it is possible to win one or two skirmishes with the Government.”


Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits