Star will continue to fight battle

WE were the first to highlight the growing noise nuisance of planes in Suffolk's skies and the sudden growth in flights.

WE were the first to highlight the growing noise nuisance of planes in Suffolk's skies and the sudden growth in flights.

Three years ago The Evening Star realised there had been major changes made to the airspace over part of the county - and members of the public had not even been told it would happen.

We decided we must bang the drum on such a crucial issue where democracy had been ridden over rough shod.

Councils had not discussed the matter in public and the changes were brought in virtually in secret.


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In fact, it was clear councillors and council officials did not understand at all the implications of the move, which increased air capacity by 35 per cent and effectively brought dozens of extra flights every day from Essex to over south Suffolk.

Since then the Evening Star has campaigned ceaselessly on the issue and it's only since the spring that other media have also become aware of the problems because of the consultation over the latest proposed changes and started to get excited.

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Our original concerns were the huge increase in planes and the lack of consultation.

Our campaigning has led to an enormous improvement in the consultation process - but the volume of flights remains.

The Evening Star has highlighted the issues with a series of hard-hitting articles, held meetings with officials from Stansted airport and NATS - who have drawn up the proposals for the latest changes to flightpaths - and have the support of Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer and his South Suffolk counterpart Tim Yeo, both very concerned at the growth of air travel over Suffolk.

Some people may feel there is an air of inevitability about the increase in air traffic over our lovely county.

One of the ideas the Evening Star has put forward has been “sharing the load”.

There is no reason why communities have to put up with jet noise, or losing their blue sky through contrails, day after day, week after week.

If the planes - which appear with laser-beam accuracy on the same routes every day - were sent a few degrees north or south over other areas it would mean different people would be effected with plane noise on different days and could look forward to days of peace and quiet.

At Heathrow, planes leave the runways in different directions on alternate weekends to give people peace, so a change in routes to steer planes clear of areas and give them a break is a real possibility.

Rest assured, this is an issue which is not going to go away - and the Evening Star will be fighting for Suffolk all the way.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS FOR NATS / CAA AND GOVERNMENT:

1. How many commercial planes are crossing Suffolk daily and annually on flights to or from UK airports and foreign destinations? Which UK airports?

2. In particular, how many are using the controlled airspace over the Felixstowe peninsula each day?

3. How many planes are “overflying” the Felixstowe peninsula - ie not stopping at airports in the UK, simply heading for destinations further afield?

4. What is the maximum number of planes per day which could use the flight corridor over Felixstowe?

5. How many are cargo planes and how many passenger flights?

6. What are the proportions of daytime and night-time flights?

7. Are there rules which govern night-time flying over urban areas?

8. Do flights have to stop by a certain time?

9. What is the maximum number of planes which could fly over Suffolk - or on one particular flightpath - on any day?

10. Will planes have to fly lower in future to accommodate the growth expected?

11. What studies have been done to assess the amount of pollution from aircraft travelling over Suffolk - both that in the atmosphere and that falling to ground?

12. What studies have been done to assess noise levels from jets over Suffolk? If, not, why not.

13. What studies have been done to assess the impact on health of those living below flightpaths?

14. What role does the CAA/NATS have in protecting the public from the problems of noise and pollution - and if not, whose role is it to do so?

15. Why are planes flying over Felixstowe when there is so much open countryside with fewer people living in it both north and south of the area?

16. Why are planes flying with pinpoint laser accuracy on the same paths day after day - why can the load not be spread so that these flightpaths are varied by a few degrees to give communities quiet times?

17. Why was it decided that the Felixstowe area should take more flights after 2004 and Clacton less?

18. Will the newly proposed changes which seek to direct flights over rural areas make any difference to the Felixstowe / Ipswich / Shotley area - ie will there be less flights over those areas?

19. If holding stacks are moved over the sea, what will be the implications for the coastal areas of Suffolk in terms of flightpaths and noise?

20. Why are you not answering our questions clearly and fully?

21. The consultation process is a sham - we believe the issue is already decided. If not, show us what other options have been considered and what changes could be made.

22. Have you listened to our idea for quiet days and noisy days - the suggestion of “spread the load” to create days or weekends when people can expect less planes? What progress has been made since you said you would consider this?

23. What is being done specifically to alleviate the growing burden of jet noise for Felixstowe, Walton and Trimley?

24. With growing protests from towns and villages across Britain, how can you ensure Suffolk, as in 1994, isn't being dumped on again with more planes?

25. Has the removal of some flightpaths from the Dedham Vale meant that other areas of Suffolk are now suffering more planes overhead?

FASTFACTS: Stansted

- Government is currently deciding whether Stansted can increase its current limit of 25 million passengers per year by ten million per year on 20,000 extra flights.

- It is feared most of these 50 extra flights a day will fly in over Suffolk, adding to the noise already suffered by those living under the busy flightpaths.

- In addition, the airport's owners BAA are seeking permission for a new £2.3 billion runway.

- This would permit growth to around 80m passengers a year - as big as Heathrow is today.

- One thousand acres of land would be needed for the project and it would mean homes and woodland being lost.

- Objectors say noise, air quality, health, road congestion, rail overcrowding, erosion of the community would all worsen and there would be a radical transformation of a largely rural community to one under pressure from urbanisation.

CAMPAIGN FILE: 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.

- Our Air Fair campaign agrees with and supports Stansted Airport at its current flight and passenger limits.

- But the campaign 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 being discussed currently at a public inquiry to increase the number of passengers by ten million a year on around 74,000 extra flights.

- It is 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 cut the noise afflicting communities and to look at the possibility of moving flight corridors on a regular basis so that the same communities do not suffer noise nuisance incessantly.

- HALF the planes which fly over Suffolk pass over the Felixstowe area.

The historic twin Trimleys, Walton and Felixstowe itself are already blighted by noise.

With Britain's busiest container port on the doorstep, 4,000 lorries thundering along the A14 every day, plus the normal traffic for any community of 30,000 people, plus 26 cargo trains a day and an hourly passenger service, the last thing the area needs is extra pressure from above.

It's not just Felixstowe though.

Walk along Woodbridge's river wall on a Saturday morning and count the planes overhead and listen to the distant dull roar competing with the cries of wading birds hunting their elevenses on the Deben's mud.

Walk on the Shotley peninsula and see the staggering number of jets going in all directions - the same ones that fly over the Felixstowe peninsula, with the incoming ones getting lower all the time as they head west.

These are not the only areas in Suffolk which are suffering, losing their tranquillity.

Across the county communities large and small are seeing more planes than ever before - and those which have no jets yet will see them in the future as the skies come under increasing pressure with air traffic set to double.

- STACKING is one of the biggest issues over the proposed changes to airspace over Suffolk.

Villagers are rightly concerned about the impact of planes circling overhead waiting for a slot to land on Stansted's runway.

At peak times it could mean a plane every two minutes for the 37 small communities between Stowmarket and Hadleigh.

But some communities are already suffering that sort of flow of planes - and no-one is taking any notice of their views either.

In-bound planes for Stansted and Luton currently arrive every two minutes from the east at the same time as others from other airports are going out and overflying the area.

The crucial issue is the volume of air traffic. There is simply too many planes going over Suffolk.

If Stansted is allowed to use its current runway to its maximum it could mean another 74,000 flights a year. If it gains permission for another runway, it could mean 520,000 flights a year. When Heathrow expands there will be tens of thousands more.

Planes are not full now to many destinations - who will use all these extra flights?

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