25th October 2005

United call for Government action on night flights

MPs and Council Leaders from across the region have called on the Government to rethink its proposals to allow night flights quotas at Stansted to increase by 41 percent over current levels in the next seven years.

They were joined by dozens more Parliamentarians and community leaders from across the political spectrum to address more than 400 people who attended a rally against the Government’s plans for slackening night flights restrictions at London’s three main airports. Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary Alan Duncan MP and Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Tom Brake MP also played an active role in the proceedings which took place in Central Hall, Westminster on Monday 24 October.

The rally was organised by Stop Stansted Expansion in conjunction with community campaigners at Heathrow and Gatwick to add to the pressure on the Government at a time when it is considering the results of its recent consultation into night flying restrictions at the three airports.

Brooks Newmark, Mark Prisk and Tim Yeo were among local MPs and Peers who were present, expressing serious concern about the Government’s failure to bear down on night noise as promised in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper. Cllr Gerard McEwen, Vice Chairman of Essex County Council, and Cllr Mark Gayler, Leader of Uttlesford District Council were just two of the many council leaders who addressed the overflowing hall.

The blatant disregard for the well-being of those living under flight paths who suffer from the effects of overflying at night in order to pander to the interests of the aviation industry was repeated time and time again.

“The Government is deaf to reason and we must shout loudly and clearly,” Mark Prisk MP (Hertford & Stortford) emphasised, brandishing ear defenders to reinforce his point. “Night noise is the most intrusive and insidious form of noise and proposals for a 41 percent increase at Stansted are disgraceful,” he said.

Brooks Newmark MP (Braintree) talked of the increasing number of complaints received from his constituents about night flights, notably in the Bardfields, Finchingfield and Weathersfield, also drawing on his personal experiences of living under the flight path. “I have been concerned that the number of complaints about noise levels which I’ve received from the villages in the north of my constituency has been rising recently. As a father of five children I feel very strongly that all our families should have the right to an uninterrupted night’s sleep a night which lasts the traditional eight hours, and not the 6½ hours which the Government now allows us.”

Tim Yeo MP (South Suffolk), meanwhile, spelt out not only the effects on people whose sleep is constantly interrupted but also the environmental damage caused by aviation. “The Government should make it a priority to ensure that flights reflect the true cost of the damage they cause,” he said.

Stop Stansted Expansion Deputy Chairman Norman Mead brought the evening to a close with a warning to the Government and the Department for Transport to listen more closely to those who are so badly affected by night flights. “When you take the path of deceit and betrayal, you are taking advantage of the goodwill of ordinary law abiding people and you are treading on dangerous ground. It is not too late for the Government to start behaving responsibly on the night flights issue and I urge it to do so even at this late stage.”

“Local communities around airports have suffered long enough. Our patience is wearing thin,” he continued. “We need to start seeing across-the-board reductions in the number of night flights and we need to start seeing that now.”

1. The commitment to bear down on night noise was made in The Future of Air Transport”, White Paper, December 2003, para 3.12, page 33. www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_aviation/documents/page/dft_aviation_031516.pdf

2. At Stansted, the number of flights in the year to 31 March 2005 was actually 8,502. DfT proposes an annual quota of 12,000 night flights for Stansted for the next six years i.e. 41% above the present baseline. DfT is attempting to present its proposals as signifying no increase for Stansted because 12,000 is the current quota.

3. Stop Stansted Expansion has made a comprehensive response to the DfT consultation, arguing the case for night flights restrictions in more detail. This can be viewed on line at: www.stanstedairportwatch.com/night_flights.html

4. Photographs of speakers and of the campaign rally are available on request from SSE Office.

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