Community leaders' Stansted answers

COMMUNITY leaders are today in contact with the skylords sending thousands of jets across Suffolk in a bid to stop the problems getting worse.

COMMUNITY leaders are today in contact with the skylords sending thousands of jets across Suffolk in a bid to stop the problems getting worse.

Airspace is due to be expanded to cope with increasing numbers of flights at Stansted and other airports, and consultation on the proposals and the affect on Suffolk is set to take place early next year.

But councils are already putting views to the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) in a bid to head off another major upsurge in the number of noisy jets polluting Suffolk's peaceful character.

They are upset at the way the last consultation was handled and want to ensure this time it is different.

The information came to light as five councils replied to ten questions posed by the Evening Star to see how they are standing up for residents in the fight against increasing air traffic.

The Star is concerned about the impact the recent 30per cent increase in air traffic over the county is having and worried that present proposals to increase passenger numbers at Stansted by ten million on 23,000 extra flights, will make it much worse.

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Some aircraft observers say an incredible 1,200-plus planes a day are already flying over Suffolk but the truth is no-one knows how many there actually are because authorities do not keep records of them.

However, only two of the councils answered the questions - and three of them refused to do so.

Babergh District Council, Mid Suffolk District Council and Ipswich Borough Council would not answer.

A Babergh spokesman: “The Evening Star's questions assume that Babergh has some measure of responsibility for, or authority over, the issue of the future expansion of Stansted and the air space over our district.

“This is just not the case, although as one of many consultees involved the views of Babergh's councillors have been relayed to the appropriate bodies.

“As such, we have expressed a number of concerns over the wider environmental impact of any expansion, the lack of obvious economic benefits to Babergh's residents from such growth and the particular issue of night flying over our district.

“Furthermore, Babergh's request that local people should have a chance to express their views on Stansted may have contributed to one session of the present inquiry being held in Sudbury in September.”

A Mid Suffolk District Council spokesman said: “We agree with our neighbouring authority Babergh about the questions.

“We are also one of the consultees involved in this process and we regularly ensure that our councillors and officers are given the opportunity to convey their views to the appropriate organisations.

“We have also expressed a number of concerns over the wider environmental impact of any expansion, the lack of obvious economic benefits to Mid Suffolk's residents from such growth and the particular issue of night flying over our district.”

Ipswich Borough Council said it believed it may be consulted on future planning applications and would need to consider the evidence and respond at that time.

Suffolk County Councillor Eddy Alcock, responsible for the environment, said council officers had met NATS officers three times in preparation for the next round of airspace changes to avoid the problems with the previous consultation which “did not give a clear, comprehensive and accurate indication of the likely outcomes” of the increase in airspace.

The council has already voiced concern over the proposals to increase use of the runway at Stansted and a possible second runway.

Suffolk Coastal councillor Andrew Nunn said the council has had few complaints about noise but is concerned about climate change and encouraging a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions.

N Do you support the No More Stanstead campaign? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

Q1: What is the council's view on the current numbers of flights overflying Suffolk?

Suffolk County Council (SCC): The Council has not expressed a formal view on the current number of flights overflying Suffolk, although it acknowledges that there is concern in some parts of the county over the noise impact and other potential environmental implications of such flights. The current number and distribution of flights reflect in particular changes in controlled airspace and routeing of traffic over southern East Anglia introduced in March 2004. The Council has since expressed concern about the May 2003 consultation which preceded the introduction of these changes, on the grounds that it did not give a clear, comprehensive and accurate indication of the likely outcomes.

Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC): Suffolk Coastal has no evidence to justify it being concerned about the current number of commercial aircraft flights in our area but we will be monitoring the situation and taking account of the views of our local communities.

Q2: Is the council concerned about the future growth of Stansted and the extra air traffic this will generate over the county?

SCC: Yes. This concern is reflected in the council's responses to three recent consultations:

to British Airports Authority on 28 October 2005 (“Growing Stansted Airport on the existing runway” and Draft Interim Master Plan), opposing the development of a second runway at Stansted, and any increase in passenger throughput beyond 25 million per annum pending a decision on a second runway there; to British Airports Authority on 22 March 2006 (“Stansted Generation 2”, ie construction of a second runway) reiterating its response of 28 October 2005; and to Uttlesford District Council on 19 June 2006 (Planning application by BAA to increase the number of air traffic movements and remove the cap on annual passenger throughput) objecting to the proposals.

SCDC: The potential expansion of Stansted may have indirect benefits and disadvantages for this district. There could be economic benefits through improved and increased access to Europe and beyond, while it may result in increased visits by tourists, and also offer a better service to our residents. There are no measurable impacts on the local environment as a result of Stansted at present, and we would have to see the detail of what is proposed. However, we clearly do have wider concerns about climate change and encouraging a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. We would probably want to see significant steps being made to offset the CO2 impact of an expanded Stansted, and also the climate change impact of the vapour trails left in the wake of commercial aircraft. In the context of what would be good for this district, or indeed the county as a whole, we would probably prefer to see significant investment in an improved rail network, rather than an expansion at Stansted.

Q3: Does the council have - or is prepared to appoint - an officer whose responsibility includes aviation concerns?

SCC: Not specifically. Aviation issues are dealt with by the council's Planning Policy and Regeneration Team in the Environment and Transport Directorate.

SCDC: Our environmental protection team monitors noise and air pollution across the district but it should be realised that there are no DEFRA approved noise monitoring protocol regarding commercial aircraft passing overhead at a high altitude. We have received four complaints about commercial aircraft in the last three years. We regularly consult with our residents about what are their priorities for this Council and no-one has ever raised this issue. From the evidence of complaints received, we can see no justification for appointing someone whose sole task was to campaign against commercial airflights. However, if such support was ever deemed necessary, one option that we would investigate would be to work in conjunction with colleague authorities and councils to achieve this additional cost effectively.

Q4: Is the council aware of the proposed changes in airspace to be unveiled later this year?

SCC: The council is aware that further changes likely to affect Suffolk are being prepared by National Air Traffic Services and that consultation on the draft proposals is expected to take place in late 2007.

SCDC: Yes.

Q5: Is the council currently in correspondence or communication with the CAA and NATS over these changes?

SCC: Council officers have met NATS officers on three occasions to discuss the development of the proposals, most recently in November 2006.

SCDC: Yes - but only for clarification of information.

Q6: Will the council be making representations about the changes?

SCC: The council expects to comment formally on the proposals at the consultation stage. Officers have already made suggestions to NATS about the content and format of that consultation, in an attempt to avoid some of the deficiencies in the previous exercise in May 2003.

SCDC: We do not know if we will be formally consulted but we will make a response after giving it full consideration if we are.

Q7: What is the council doing to safeguard communities from the impact of air travel and ensure our quality of life is not spoiled - and what steps will it being taking in the future?

SCC: The county council is engaging with the aviation authorities as already indicated to try to ensure a satisfactory outcome for Suffolk from the various airspace and development processes currently taking place. However the council has no statutory responsibility or control which it can exercise in respect of overflying of the county and mitigation of its impacts.

SCDC: This council is committed to maintaining what surveys of our residents have shown to be one of the best quality of life ratings in the country. However, it is clear that the impact of air travel over this district is not a significant concern to our residents. We will not be complacent as our residents would not let us be, and we will of course continue to monitor and pass on any complaints to NATS, but I would stress we have had only four complaints on this subject in three years.

Q8 Noise from aircraft is increasing over some communities - is the council prepared to take up this issue with the government on behalf of its residents?

SCC: See answer to question 7.

SCDC: We have no baseline figures to show if there has been any increase in noise generated by the commercial aviation industry in our district but there is no pattern of complaints to suggest the veracity of this claim. If it was a problem, we would of course be prepared to take it up with whoever we had to, whether that is the government or any relevant public or private organisation.

Q9 Has the council analysed the potential impact of a second runway for Stansted on its area?

SCC: In arriving at its current stance, the council has taken into account information on potential impacts with regard to the local environment, the economy, transport and housing in the government consultation on the Future of Air Transport in the United Kingdom (2002-03), the subsequent Aviation White Paper (December 2003), studies commissioned in 2004 by the East of England Regional Assembly during the preparation of the East of England Regional Plan, and BAA Stansted's own consultations. None of these sources addresses the overflying issue in detail, other than in the immediate vicinity of the airport.

SCDC: As no planning application has yet been submitted, we have only carried out a brief assessment of the potential impact of a second runway but would consider the matter more deeply if an application was ever formally submitted.

Q10: Will the council be making a formal objection when a planning application for a second runway is made?

SCC: The council will consider its response once the planning application has been lodged and full supporting information is published. To date, on the basis of the information currently available and in response to BAA Stansted consultations, the council has expressed its opposition to the construction of a second runway, as indicated in answer to Q2.

SCDC: We do not know if we will be formally consulted and clearly we cannot at this stage predict what our response would be but it will cover any concerns that we might have on examination of the actual proposals and the evidence that supports it.

Our No More Stansted campaign agrees with and supports Stansted Airport at its current flight and passenger limits.

But the campaign 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 being discussed currently at a public inquiry to increase the number of passengers by ten million a year on around 23,000 extra flights.

It is 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 cut the noise afflicting communities and to look at the possibility of moving flight corridors on a regular basis so that the same communities do not suffer noise nuisance incessantly.