More flights to come over Suffolk

DOUBLING the number of flights at Stansted airport should not lead to dozens of new flightpaths across Suffolk - but it will mean tens of thousands more planes on existing corridors.

DOUBLING the number of flights at Stansted airport should not lead to dozens of new flightpaths across Suffolk - but it will mean tens of thousands more planes on existing corridors.

Campaigners against the runway plan though say it will be “absolute bedlam” in Suffolk's skies when the development takes place.

Airport bosses say changes will have to be made to the departure route when a second runway is built, but that should take planes south of Colchester and out over the sea between Walton-on-the-Naze and Harwich.

Inbound flights do come over Suffolk but initial indications are that these will not need to be changed from the current new proposals from NATS, though the flightpaths will be busier as the airport grows.

Alastair McDermid, director of the G2 (second runway) project for airport owners BAA, said some changes would be needed to airspace to accommodate the new runway but consultation on these would not start until 2012 or 2013.

Discussions had been held with NATS over what changes might be needed.

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“In addition to the changes on which NATS is currently consulting, there will be a need for further airspace changes to support G2,” said Mr McDermid.

“What that boils down to is an additional arrivals route to get air traffic from the two holding stacks to the approaches to the two runways.

“There will also be modifications to the departure routes for the two runways as well to ensure that fewer people are overflown while the airport grows.”

Altogether this would amount to relatively few changes to airspace to accommodate the extra planes using the airport, which by 2030 will be able to handle around 68 million passengers a year, as big as Heathrow now.

NATS though would still go through the full consultation procedures when the time comes.

Experts said the changes needed would create a “motorway in the sky” network from the holding stacks to the airport - with the changes limited to new “sliproads” for planes.

There is concern though at the huge numbers - perhaps tens of thousands more a year - of planes which will fly over Suffolk to Stansted.

Dick Histed, of the South Suffolk Air Traffic Action Group, said people who believed it would not increase flights and jet noise for those living below were living in “fantasy land” - and predicted it would be “absolute bedlam” in the county's skies.

“Basically it will be a disaster for Suffolk - we already have 40 per cent of Stansted's flights coming over us,” he said.

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A PUBLIC inquiry will be held into the proposals for a new runway at Stansted airport - and it could last a year.

Alastair McDermid, director of the G2 (second runway) scheme, said the application would not be fast-tracked under new government planning proposals and would be dealt with under the current planning system.

“I would expect the public inquiry to begin at the end of this year or early next and to last a year,” he said.

“That will give everybody a chance to put their views. There are some people we are never likely to convince that this development should go ahead because they have made that judgement for themselves, but we will put our case at the inquiry.”

BAA are still waiting for the result of the last public inquiry into whether the current single runway at Stansted should be allowed to break its limit of 25 million passengers a year.

Mr McDermid said the decision was expected in the next few months.

“It was always our intention to submit the G2 application before we had the G1 (current runway) result - there is nothing suspicious in that. I have the assumption, expectation and hope that we will get approval for G1 in due course because we put a very strong case at the planning inquiry,” he said.

Unite, the UK's biggest civil aviation trade union, today backed Stansted's second runway.

“Air transport is a major contributor to the economy in Essex and the south east and keeps thousands in work,” said Steve Hart, Unite regional secretary.

“We have consistently argued for the expansion of Stansted to reflect the growth in passenger demand. The plans now are much more advanced in terms of reducing the potential impact on the local environment. They should go through in our view.”