Consultation move still up in the air

AIR CHIEFS today said they have still not decided how to consult with the people of Suffolk over proposals which could send thousands more jets over the county.

AIR CHIEFS today said they have still not decided how to consult with the people of Suffolk over proposals which could send thousands more jets over the county.

Proposals to change controlled airspace are set to be unveiled in the first quarter of next year.

The changes, which if approved would come into force in 2009, are needed to cope with the growth of air travel, both at the major London airports but also at smaller regional airfields.

Officials at the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) will consult with the public on the proposals, but have still not worked out how they will do it. They are drawing up a consultation plan, which will be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority for its approval.

It could include public meetings, placing documents in public libraries and on the internet, and a list of authorities and interest groups will be assembled who will be asked for their opinions.

Jane Johnston, head of external communications for Nats, said no decision had yet been made on whether this would include town, parish and district councils, or other organisations - no-one was ruled in or out at this stage.

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“Consultation on changes to airspace is not prescriptive - each exercise can be different depending on the changes being proposed, and we follow the guidelines laid down by the CAA, who will examine our proposed consultation arrangements,” she said.

“At this time we are still working on our consultation plan and hope to announce details early in the New Year.”

The proposals for the airspace have been described as the biggest changes in the most complex airspace in the world.

Nats has stressed the changes are not specifically to cope with the intended growth of Stansted airport, but because of the demand for more flights and extra routes at many airports and will make the use of airspace safer and more efficient.

The redesign will also allow for more continuous descent approaches, a procedure pioneered by NATS that considerably reduces the noise impact on people living below flight paths, and remove landing and take-off delays, cutting fuel burn and emissions.

Campaigners though say the changes will inevitably mean more jets flying over Suffolk because of the growth in traffic - and more planes flying over parts of the county which at present do not see many planes.

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