21st February 2008

Winners and losers from proposed flight path changes

Plans to change the stacking areas and departure routes for planes using Stansted Airport are set to be a wake up call to many communities who will be blighted by overflying aircraft for the first time as both winners and losers emerge from proposals issued by National Air Traffic Systems (NATS) today.

While NATS claims the plans to change aircraft flight paths over Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are designed to avoid heavily populated areas, it will be those living in currently tranquil rural areas who will bear the brunt of the changes. Two new stacking areas are being put forward for the region to replace the Sudbury holding pattern which will affect those living between Ipswich and Stowmarket and to the north of Saffron Walden to Newmarket. New departure routes are also being proposed which would affect Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden.

And, while NATS points to the lower overall numbers of people who would be affected by overflying, there are concerns that the numbers affected by higher noise levels closer to the airport, above the 57 decibel threshold which represents the onset of serious noise announce, will actually increase by 9 per cent as a result of the steeper take-offs which are put forward.

Commenting on the long-overdue proposals, Martin Peachey who chairs Stop Stansted Expansion’s Noise Committee said: “While we welcome moves to reduce noise impacts, such as proposals for greater use of Continuous Descent Approaches, there will clearly be losers as well as winners across the region since the noise has to go somewhere.”

He explained further: “The new routes mean that aircraft would be flying over communities that have previously enjoyed relative tranquility where overflying will make a greater impact because of the absence of other background noise. The question we are asking is why the holding stacks aren’t being put to the East, over the sea. Given that most flights arrive from the East and the South, this would have far less impact on the population as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Martin Peachey criticised the delays in the issue of the consultation which, he said, had meant that many people who might otherwise have played a part in the Public Inquiry last year into plans to increase flight movements at Stansted by a third above current levels stayed silent, not realising they might be affect by increased noise. The results of that inquiry are not yet known.

“If plans for a second runway went ahead, new flight paths and additional stacking areas would need to be defined,” Mr Peachey said. “With the imminent submission of a planning application by airport operator BAA, it is incumbent on NATS to set out its plans at an early stage to show the real effects that overflying would have on tens of thousands of people as a result of Stansted handling more flights than Heathrow today.”

The consultation on the proposals closes on 22 May 2008 and can be viewed at www.nats.co.uk.

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