Suffolk: Air minister to investigate huge number of jet planes over county

WELL done, minister!

Today air minister Theresa Villiers has taken up the growing concern over the increasing amount of jets flying over Suffolk – and is pledging to investigate the controversial issue.

At long last someone is listening to the worries being voiced – just as residents have been forced to listen to the noise from hundreds of passenger planes each day on a range of flightpaths over the county’s smaller communities.

The Evening Star and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter briefed Ms Villiers on our Air Fair campaign, which supports air travel but is against a massive increase in planes over Suffolk and wants the county to take only a “fair share” of aircraft.

During the meeting, the minister revealed that the campaign’s “share the load” idea – to give communities timetabled plane-free quiet times – was a project she is actively looking at.

Observers believe around 1,200 passenger planes cross Suffolk each day and at peak times there can be one every two minutes on some flightpaths.

Current government policy is to keep flightpaths away from large areas of population to minimise disturbance and protect as many people as possible.

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Dr Poulter explained that this had the effect of sending planes over smaller communities where ambient noise levels are less and so the planes are much louder.

He told the minister the planes were spoiling the environment and were frustrating for people, and there were serious worries that it would get worse in future unless efforts were made now to change flightpaths.

The minister has been asked to consider a range of proposals for limiting the number of jet planes criss-crossing the county, including:

? A “share the load” scheme to give timetabled plane-free quiet times;

? Flightpaths to and from Gatwick and Heathrow to follow the River Thames rather than over homes;

? Stack waiting planes over the sea;

? Divert flightpaths over countryside rather than small towns and villages.

At a meeting at the Department of Transport in London, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter briefed Ms Villiers on The Evening Star’s Air Fair campaign and the growing concern over noise from jets.

Ms Villiers said she was surprised to hear about the number of jets over Suffolk and had thought most flightpaths over the county were high level.

She pledged to investigate to see what action could be taken – and said the government was currently drawing up its future air policy, assessing the impact on communities and whether changes should be made to aircraft routes.

She was also looking at alternating flightpaths – The Evening Star’s “share the load” idea where routes could be moved on a regular basis to give communities quiet times.

“Addressing the impact on quality of life of communities is something we take very seriously and is one of the reasons we said no to a third runway at Heathrow,” she said.

“At the moment we are looking at the responses we have had and the aim is to put together a document for public consultation in the spring on proposals for future aviation policy, covering issues including noise.”

Dr Poulter was very pleased with the meeting and the minister’s response.

“I think it was very positive. The minister listened to what we had to say and has agreed to take on the issue and look at it further,” he said.