BSCF's objections to proposed flight path changes

Letter of 6 May 2008 sent to National Air Traffic Service

TCN Consultation
NATS
Freepost
NAT22750
Reading RG1 4BR
6 May 2008

TERMINAL CONTROL NORTH AIRSPACE CHANGE PROPOSAL

I am writing on behalf of the Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation in response to your consultation on the above mentioned airspace change proposals. The Civic Federation is a partnership of the Civic Society and all the active community and residents’ associations in the town. As such it represents the views of over 6000 households.

Bishop's Stortford is the largest settlement close to Stansted Airport which is affected by the current activities of the Airport. The town has a population of over 35000 people and it is particularly affected by aircraft taking off on what is known as the BUZAD noise preferential route – ie aircraft taking off in a south westerly direction and then making a right hand turn to proceed northwards. The noise disturbance at present is a considerable nuisance to the residents particularly of St Michael’s Mead, Thorley Park and Old Thorley and Twyford, and their associations are all members of the Civic Federation.

Although people living in these areas would have been aware of the potential of Stansted Airport to expand to 25 million passengers per annum (mppa), until the publication of the Government’s Airports White Paper in 2003 they would legitimately have expected that the Government would honour the previous commitment not to allow the airport to expand beyond that limit. As a result of the Government ignoring that commitment in its White Paper, BAA have applied for permission for a 40% increase in capacity to 35 mppa. Although the outcome of their planning appeal against refusal of permission is still awaited, BAA have more recently lodged an application to build a second runway at Stansted which, if permitted, would make it as busy as Heathrow today.

Either of these developments would greatly worsen the noise climate affecting large parts of the town even without altered flight paths. It was for this reason that the Civic Federation objected to the proposed expansion to 35 mppa and asked the Inquiry Inspector to press for a review of the BUZAD noise preferential route with a view to moving the turning point further west so as to diminish the noise impact suffered by residents.

It has therefore come as a considerable surprise to see from your consultation that you are in fact proposing that the turning point should be brought closer to the town and made tighter so that residents will be likely to suffer frequent overflying in contrast with the current route which skirts the edge of the main built up area. You appear to be labouring under the delusion that this route is called a 'noise preferential' route because people on the ground prefer aircraft noise. I can assure you that this is not the case. If you were to stick to your stated aim of minimising noise disturbance from aircraft you should, at the very least, leave the trajectory of the BUZAD route unchanged, but preferably move the turning point further west as we have previously argued.

Finally, I wish to comment on the manner in which you are conducting this consultation. It is by any yardstick the most inaccessible I have come across. By providing access to the material online only, anybody without a computer or computer skills is disenfranchised. No attempt has been made to present this highly technical subject in terms which a lay person might comprehend. And I was amazed to find that, when entering my post code, your material appears to have Heathrow Airport as the default setting even though I live only 5 miles from Stansted. Nobody in the town would have been aware of the implications of your proposals had they not been explained in simple terms by the Herts and Essex Observer and the Stop Stansted Expansion pressure group. Finally, a proposal which looks ahead only to 2014 is as deficient in explaining its full implications as BAA's recent application to expand the capacity of Stansted Airport to 35 mppa while claiming that this had no bearing on its second runway application.

In the circumstances, as well as withdrawing the proposed change to the BUZAD route, you ought to conclude that the exercise as a whole has been so flawed that you ought to discard it and start again.

I am copying this letter to Mark Prisk MP and to the CAA.

John Rhodes
Vice Chairman, BSCF