15th October 2010

NATS Postpones airspace changes yet again

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has welcomed the announcement this week [13 October] by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) of a further postponement of its plans to introduce new flight paths and stacking areas for the Terminal Control North (TCN) area.

NATS originally intended to introduce the airspace changes in 2008 but the scale of the public outcry across Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire following the publication of the proposed new flight paths and stacking areas convinced NATS that it needed to go back to the drawing board.

Revised proposals were due to be published in October 2009 but this was subsequently changed to October 2010. In announcing this latest postponement NATS has not given a revised date but hints that it will be at least two to three years before any new proposals are tabled.

In explaining this latest postponement, NATS pointed to the recent downturn in air travel, as a result of which there is less urgency on capacity grounds to achieve the changes. UK air traffic levels are not expected to return to their (peak) 2007 levels until at least 2013/14.

When flight paths and stacking areas are moved there are always winners and losers but the changes proposed by NATS in 2008 would have imposed far more overflying upon rural communities including many areas which had not previously been affected by flight paths or stacking areas. Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden would both have been hit hard by proposed new departure routes and, further afield, two new stacking areas were proposed which would have adversely affected those living in South Suffolk and South Cambridgeshire.

SSE Campaign Director, Carol Barbone, commented. “We hope that NATS will now be able to combine its original plans with the wider project it is working on for a longer term redesign of flight paths and stacking areas over southern England. A long term strategic approach is what is needed, not piecemeal chopping and changing which creates unnecessary blight and uncertainty for people on the ground.”

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