Star campaign goes to Westminster

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer is today backing the Evening Star's Air Fair campaign - and promising to raise problems of jet planes over the county in Parliament.

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer is today backing the Evening Star's Air Fair campaign - and promising to raise problems of jet planes over the county in Parliament.

Mr Gummer is taking up the fight for Suffolk at Westminster and is set to ask some of the questions the Star has been battling to get answers to at the very highest levels.

About 1,200 passenger planes are now flying over Suffolk every day - with half of them going over the Felixstowe area, the Clapham junction of the skies.

With air traffic set to double in the next 25 years, the number of planes could also double, generating more problems of noise and pollution.

The county's tranquil rural atmosphere is already being eroded and it is feared changes to airspace - set to happen in 2009 - will see more communities plagued by planes.

Mr Gummer said he was very concerned about the growth in air travel and the impact on the environment.

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“This is an issue which is affecting many parts of our county and my constituency in particular as the planes come in or out of our airspace over the coast,” he said.

“I believe we should be looking to cut down on flights where possible - and there are many routes now where high-speed trains can make the journeys easily and almost as quickly with a much smaller carbon footprint.”

He is to take the Star's unanswered questions and pursue them as Parliamentary questions.

Government policy is determined to increase air travel and airports are already preparing for the future.

Stansted airport is awaiting the result of a public inquiry into its application to add ten million extra passengers a year on 23,000 more flights, and is expected to submit its plans for a second runway, which could add 300,000 planes to the skies, very soon.

Heathrow is also seeking permission for a third runway which would see flights grow from 473,000 a year to 700,000-plus, with many of them heading out over Suffolk.

National Air Traffic Services is currently designing its airspace proposals and consultation is expected to take place this spring.

What do you think of the possibility of tens of thousands more planes flying over Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Questions John Gummer is seeking answers to:

How many commercial planes are crossing Suffolk daily, and annually, on flights to or from UK airports and foreign destinations (including those overflying the UK)?

What would be the maximum number of planes which could fly over Suffolk daily? Will expansion of Heathrow/Stansted and other airports mean planes have to fly lower to accommodate the extra air traffic?

What is the maximum number of planes per day which could use the flight corridors over the Felixstowe, Walton, Trimley, Kirton area and the Suffolk coast in general?

Who decided the vast increase in flights which have been experienced over the past few years should be sent over the Felixstowe peninsula and the A12 corridor from south Suffolk into Essex? Where is the democracy - how are the CAA and NATS accountable to members of the public?

Has Felixstowe been targeted because it is already a busy area - noise and pollution from Britain's biggest port, busy A14 and rail line - and extra activity would not be noticed?

Planes are flying over Felixstowe when there is so much open countryside (with fewer people living in it) and sea, north and south of the area. Is the impact on communities under the flightpaths not taken into account?

Planes fly over the Felixstowe area throughout the day and night, seven days a week on exactly the same routes day after day, with pinpoint accuracy. Why can the flightpaths not be adjusted by a few degrees to take the air traffic away from the urban area (either over the less populated countryside or empty sea) on certain days of the week to give residents a break from the constant noise?

Councils say they have no jurisdiction to deal with aircraft noise - so who does monitor it and would be responsible for taking action to curb it, particularly in areas many miles from airports?

Work has been done to monitor aircraft noise close to airports, but have any surveys been done to assess the impact of aircraft noise on people living under flightpaths which are many miles away from airports?

What research is taking place into the effect of pollution from aircraft on those living below flightpaths? Are particles from jet exhausts - which are said to be having an impact on global warming high in the atmosphere - falling to earth and adding to air quality problems in our towns and villages?

Should the government be promoting an expansion in air travel at all bearing in mind the growing concerns over carbon emissions, noise and other issues?

Should the government be looking harder at taxing air travel - and putting the money it raises into other, more environmentally-friendly transport systems, eg more high-speed rail routes?