All air routes lead to Felixstowe

TIME is running out for people to give their views on the proposed changes to flighpaths over Suffolk. In the first of three special features, RICHARD CORNWELL looks at why the Felixstowe area has so many planes flying over it now - and why the changes will make no difference if air traffic continues to increase.

Richard Cornwell

TIME is running out for people to give their views on the proposed changes to flighpaths over Suffolk. In the first of three special features, RICHARD CORNWELL looks at why the Felixstowe area has so many planes flying over it now - and why the changes will make no difference if air traffic continues to increase.

NEW maps have been released which show today exactly why Felixstowe is the Clapham junction of the skies - and how the situation will get worse in the years ahead.

Around 600 passenger planes a day currently fly over the Felixstowe area and in future - with the expansion of Stansted to the size of Heathrow - that number will more than double.

Now maps released by NATS (formerly the National Air Traffic Services) show why jets fly over the Felixstowe area with laser-like accuracy on the same routes day after day - because the resort is officially under three of the busiest flightpaths in the UK.

But the maps also show that up until four years ago the resort had very few planes flying over it at all, escaping the vast majority of flights to Luton and Stansted.

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It was the airspace changes in 2004 - which the public were not informed about - which has created the huge onslaught of planes, day after day, night after night, turning the resort from peaceful seaside town into one plagued by aircraft noise.

The maps have been released as part of the consultation documents for the current proposed changes to airspace which NATS hopes to have in place by next year.

While NATS officials said at the start of the consultation that Felixstowe should see less planes under the latest changes, it is clear from the maps that this change will be minimal - and only until Stansted expands.

In future, planes heading for Luton will not fly over the resort - taking a path north of Ipswich to a new stack near Cambridge - which will reduce the numbers.

However, planes bound for Stansted and the new stack between Stowmarket-Ipswich-Hadleigh will still all fly straight over Felixstowe and straight up the peninsula, following the A14 and will increase in the years ahead.

There may be a slight change in that more of the planes will fly over Old Felixstowe, Felixstowe Ferry and Bawdsey, compared with their present route over central, southern and west Felixstowe.

All outward flights going east from Heathrow and Gatwick will still go over the resort and these will increase, too, in future as these airports expand.

The most damning maps though are those showing the situation before and after the 2004 airspace changes.

Before the changes, planes for Luton and Stansted went over Clacton and Frinton and not over Felixstowe at all.

After the changes, the jets were sent over a much larger area - including right over Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Ipswich and Harwich.

NATS says the changes proposed will mean less planes flying over Constable County, the beautiful Dedham Vale.

A spokeswoman said: “The principal reason for this is the movement of the hold away from the vicinity of Sudbury into a less densely-populated area located north-west of Ipswich, near Stowmarket.”

It should mean that in future Stansted planes are flying over the Felixstowe-Ipswich area at 10,000ft and Luton ones at 15,000ft, higher than some routes now.

Are you concerned by the prospect of more planes flying over? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email

THERE is less than one month left for people to submit their views on the proposed changes to airspace over Suffolk.

NATS' 13-week consultation on the biggest overhaul of the sky known as Terminal Control North ends on May 22.

The region is one of the most complex areas of airspace in the world, with routes in and out of major airports including Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and London City, as well as smaller airports such as Southend, and the changes aim to reduce delays and maintain safety and improve environmental performance of the aircraft.

Jonathan Astill, NATS' head of airspace management, said: “All these airports have grown considerably in the past 20 years within the existing airspace infrastructure.

“Just like bottlenecks on our roads, increased air traffic causes congestion in the airways meaning delay and extra fuel burn - and that has an impact on the environment.

“Redrawing the routes enables us to make them more efficient.

“We are consulting very widely on these proposals and have already visited more than 30 councils, and more than 20 MPs, to discuss local implications and to answer their questions on the proposals.

“We have more meetings scheduled. We are receiving a wide range of feedback which will be taken into account in finalising the proposal we put forward for consideration by the Civil Aviation Authority.”

There is uncertainty over the impact the proposals will have on Suffolk, which already has 1,200 planes flying over it every day.

But the main change will be moving the Sudbury holding stack to between Stowmarket and Hadleigh and villagers are furious.

NATS is directly consulting more than 3,000 stakeholders including MPs, county, district and borough councils, airport consultative committees, environmental groups and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, business organisations, airlines, and recreational aviation groups.

Members of the public can submit their views through the county or district council, MP, or the website,

People have viewed more than one million pages on the site and downloaded 200,000 sections of the 420-page consultation document, which is also available in Suffolk libraries.

The Evening Star's Air Fair campaign

Government is encouraging a dramatic increase in air travel - and that will have huge consequences for Suffolk's skies and the communities which live below them.

More than 1,200 planes currently cross Suffolk every day and the number is set to grow hugely - possibly double - in the next two decades

The planes bring noise, pollution, and blot out the sun with their contrails, and the fear is flights will get lower.

Our campaign agrees with and supports Stansted Airport at its current flight and passenger limits, but is against expansion of the airport which will have an intolerable impact on the quality of life of people in Suffolk.

It is against proposals to increase the number of passengers by ten million a year on possibly 75,000 extra flights, and against the building of a second runway which would more than double the current flights - another 300,000 a year.

The campaign wants a full review of pollution being caused by the jets - both the impact on ozone layer and on the environment at ground level - and of the increasing noise being caused by the aircraft 24/7.

We want assurances that planes will not be allowed to fly lower than the present lowest levels across Suffolk.

There must also be a full review of the current flightpaths to look at the possibility of moving flight corridors on a regular basis so the same communities do not suffer noise nuisance incessantly.