Public meetings to explain air changes

PUBLIC meetings are likely to be held across Suffolk to explain the changes to airspace which will send tens of thousands more jet planes over the county in the years ahead.

By Richard Cornwell

PUBLIC meetings are likely to be held across Suffolk to explain the changes to airspace which will send tens of thousands more jet planes over the county in the years ahead.

But details of the consultation process for the changes - billed by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) as the biggest airspace changes anywhere in the world in the most complex airspace in the world - have not yet been agreed.

NATS is planning to unveil the changes early in the new year and then consultation will be held.

However, before they can set out their plans, officials must agree with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on the format of the consultation.

Three years ago when airspace over parts of east and south Suffolk was increased by 30 per cent, there was no consultation with the public at all.

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Councils were asked for their views but most failed to respond and several later admitted the issue was too technical for them to understand.

Since then the number of planes flying over the area has grown substantially - with more than 600 jets a day over the Felixstowe peninsula.

This time NATS has to consult with the public fully following changes to airspace regulations earlier this year after The Evening Star repeatedly highlighted the inadequacies in consultation.

A spokesman for the CAA said: “On changes of this scale we would certainly be expecting the consultation to involve public meetings to explain the issues to the public and would be very surprised if it didn't.

“These proposals are fairly big changes - in fact, one of the biggest changes in one of the most complex areas - and there must be the fullest consultation. Our prime role is to look at safety in the air but also the impact on the environment.”

NATS is still finalising the changes to the airspace proposals.

The service needs to prepare for the expected general growth in air traffic, prevent delays and ensure safe management of busier skies, and says the changes are not designed to support potential runway expansions at any individual airport.

Officials have already held informal discussions with councils over the impact of extra flights over certain areas and carried out a three week simulation exercise.

If agreed by the CAA, the changes would come into effect in 2009.

Should more planes be allowed to fly over Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

Campaign panel: Air Fair

Government is encouraging a dramatic increase in air travel - and that will have huge consequences for Suffolk's skies and the communities which live below them.

More than 1,200 planes currently cross Suffolk every day and the number is set to grow hugely - possibly double - in the next two decades

The planes bring noise, pollution, and blot out the sun with their contrails, and the fear is flights will get lower.

Our campaign agrees with and supports Stansted Airport at its current flight and passenger limits, but 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 to increase the number of passengers by ten million a year on possibly 75,000 extra flights, and 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 look at the possibility of moving flight corridors on a regular basis so the same communities do not suffer noise nuisance incessantly.

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