Night time flights could be reduced

NIGHT-TIME flights by commercial aircraft keeping Suffolk residents awake could be restricted, it was revealed today.Government officials are seeking the public's view on the issue – and it could mean cutbacks in the number of planes criss-crossing the county from next year.

NIGHT-TIME flights by commercial aircraft keeping Suffolk residents awake could be restricted, it was revealed today.

Government officials are seeking the public's view on the issue – and it could mean cutbacks in the number of planes criss-crossing the county from next year.

Department of Transport (DoT) officials said the current night-time flying quotas for planes to and from Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick between 11.30pm and 6am end in 2005.

They have to agree new quotas for the airports and it is one of the few aviation matters on which the public is given a say.

Those closest to the airports will be the most affected by night-time flights, but anyone living under a flight path suffers from the noise from jet liners.

The Evening Star has highlighted the huge increase in air traffic in Suffolk's skies on which there has been no public consultation whatsoever – and asked the Civil Aviation Authority 20 key questions about the situation.

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In the past decade a new flight corridor has opened over the Felixstowe peninsula which is being used by hundreds of planes night and day.

The DoT said people were being invited to give their views on night-time flying and what they would like to see happen in the future by October 29.

A consultation paper has been published covering a wide range of issues, including changing the night-time flying times, the numbers and types of aircraft which would be permitted to fly, and possible action to cut noise.

Officials say they still have a lot of groundwork to do on proposals on new movements limits and noise quotas, and to consider whether to introduce controls to prevent "bunching" of flights at any particular time of night.

In December 2003 the DoT published a white paper called The Future of Air Transport which set out a framework for development of airport capacity during the next 30 years.

The DoT stated: "The Government has endorsed a balanced approach which recognises the importance of aviation to our national and regional economies, seeks to reduce and minimise the impacts of airports on those who live nearby and on the natural environment, and will ensure that, over time, aviation pays its external costs.

"In the White Paper, the paragraph most relevant to the present consultation states: 'The Government recognises that noise from aircraft operations at night is widely regarded as the least acceptable aspect of aircraft operations.

"'We will bear down on night noise accordingly, but we must strike a fair balance between local disturbance, the limits of social acceptability and the economic benefits of night flights. This should be done on a case-by-case basis.'"

The department is asking airlines for detailed information on the number of flights they want to operate each night, the value of these flights to their business and the likely operational and financial consequences if they are restricted.

Comments should be sent to Department for Transport, Aviation Environmental Division 2, Zone 1/34, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR.

WEBLINK: www.dft.gov.uk

n What do you think of the number of planes in our skies – and the noise and air pollution they cause? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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