Whitehall stonewall Air Fair questions

MINISTERS are today passing the buck on the difficult questions over the increasing numbers of jet planes in Suffolk's skies.Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer is asking a series of Parliamentary questions - but is meeting a wall of silence.

MINISTERS are today passing the buck on the difficult questions over the increasing numbers of jet planes in Suffolk's skies.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer is asking a series of Parliamentary questions - but is meeting a wall of silence.

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

But he is getting the same responses from transport ministers, told they are not responsible for the numbers of planes, the impact on the communities living below them, or safety - despite the government's policy to double air travel in the next 20 years.

Transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick, parliamentary under-secretary with responsibility for aviation, shipping, the environment and road safety, said National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should provide the answers.

Both of these have dodged the questions - sometimes saying each other held the information - raising big questions over who is accountable to the public.

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Mr Gummer asked:

If the Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly would bring forward proposals to reduce the number of planes flying over Felixstowe?

What is the maximum number of planes per day permitted to use the flight corridors over the Felixstowe, Walton, Trimley, Kirton area and the Suffolk coast?

How many commercial aeroplanes flew over Suffolk in the last 12 months and on each day of the last 12 months?

What account is taken of the effect on communities living under flightpaths when taking decisions on the number of planes flying on those routes?

What the estimated maximum number of aeroplanes that may fly safely over Suffolk each day?

Mr Fitzpatrick failed to give complete answers to any of the questions.

He said it would be up to NATS and the CAA to reduce the number of flights over the Felixstowe area - and the authority could do this if it chose through the current proposals to alter airspace.

On the question of the impact on people living under flightpaths, he said the CAA had a duty to take this into account as part of its air navigation duties.

“Under this process, proposers of airspace changes are required to consider the impact of changes to airspace arrangements on the areas which are overflown and to consult widely on the proposed changes,” he said.

“Detailed guidance is given on what impacts are to be taken into account, how they should be measured and on who should be consulted.”

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

Campaign panel: Air Fair

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.