Call for independent voice on flights

CONSERVATIVES say if they win the next General Election they will create an Ombudsman-style officer to step in and examine the public's complaints over jet noise and flightpaths.

Richard Cornwell

CONSERVATIVES say if they win the next General Election they will create an Ombudsman-style officer to step in and examine the public's complaints over jet noise and flightpaths.

Julian Brazier, Tory shadow minister for transport, said people wanted to feel their views mattered - and would genuinely be taken into account.

His office had received more letters on the NATS proposals for the reorganisation of airspace - including changes to flightpaths and holding stacks over Suffolk - than any other aviation issue.

“Those letters express deep concerns about what people's quality of life will be if the proposals go through, and an overwhelming feeling of being disfranchised,” he said.

“Many people have complained that they did not hear about the proposal until it was too late.

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“The Government have sought to stifle intelligent debate on serious aviation issues such as flight-path reorganisation or the expansion of Heathrow, Stansted and regional airports.

“The NATS consultation, like the Heathrow one before it, has done nothing to reverse that sense of 'them versus us' - the aviation industry and the government versus the citizen.”

The Conservative party would like a commercial flights officer position to be created.

“The post-holder would act as an ombudsman for formal complaints about noise, whom people could approach via their MPs,” said Mr Brazier.

“The ombudsman would have the power to compel NATS, airports and other bodies that are concerned with the movement of aircraft to cooperate in investigations.

“The ombudsman would have powers to name and shame, to monitor quality and to publish details of noise abatement and compensation schemes.

“That simple and extremely cheap measure would give people a voice - it would not be used irresponsibly because MPs would have to be part of the process - and a feeling that their views and concerns matter.”

Air management company NATS has received more than 5,000 protests about its proposals and officers are compiling a report on the outcome of the consultation.

Later in the year the firm will submit its final proposals to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Are you confident NATS will listen to Suffolk's concern over changes to flightpaths? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk