Campaigners from London City joined those from Heathrow and Gatwick air today to deliver a joint letter to Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, demanding a voice for residents in flight path changes which are expected to be introduced over the next few years. Campaigners have asked for a meeting with the Transport Secretary.
Read the letter here: Gatwick Heathrow and City Airport Flight Path Letter to DfT
The letter is not about new runways. There are differences amongst the campaigners on whether a new runway is needed and, if so, where it should be.
The move followers anger from residents at the changes to flight paths which have taken place over the last couple of years. Protest groups have sprung up around Gatwick in response to the changes to both arrival and departure routes. The recent trials at Heathrow sparked a record number of complaints. And in East London furious residents staged public meetings at not being proper consulted about London City’s proposals to concentrate flight paths.
The airspace changes are part of a Europe-wide programme to make more effective use of airspace and are now impacting the whole of the UK. They are designed to enable airlines to save fuel, to allow aircraft to land at and depart from airports more efficiently. In the UK Gatwick and London City have been earmarked as first in line for the changes. Heathrow is expected to have its changes in place by 2019 with national changes by 2020.
Residents fear that the changes will result in excessive concentration of aircraft along selected routes. They are particularly critical of NATS (National Air Traffic Control) and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), the two organizations who are driving the changes.
John Stewart, who chairs HACAN East, the organisation which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said, “NATS and CAA are remote from residents. They plan these flight path changes in their hi-tec ivory towers. Our letter to the Transport Secretary contains positive proposals for flight paths that could work for both the industry and for residents. They involve providing all residents with some respite from the noise. HACAN is actively engaging with Heathrow to see what can be done. But it does require NATS and the CAA to play ball”.
Stewart added, “London City Airport have been much less willing to engage with us and seem content to simply do what NATS asks them even if it means the creation of noise ghettos.”