Francis Maude: Gatwick has a great deal of trust to rebuild

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Since the controversial Gatwick flight path trial ended last week, I have had many heartfelt messages from constituents who feel that they are still being overflown much more than they were before it started six months ago.

We are tracking flights every day with quite sophisticated software and comparing them to 2012 and 2013.

It is clear that even when the data suggests that an address was being overflown before the trial, with almost identical paths on a similar date with the same wind conditions in previous years, once perception of the nuisance has changed it is very difficult to return to a sanguine acceptance of some aircraft noise.

Gatwick Airport has a great deal of trust to rebuild. This has to start with an acceptance that the current airspace consultation is too long and complicated and technical for people to be able to register their views effectively. I found it really hard to navigate, and I’ve lived and breathed these issues for 17 years.

On another note (literally...) on Tuesday I visited the Music Industry Association whose HQ is here in Horsham. We met with a fantastically dedicated group of musicians who speak movingly and passionately about the many benefits of learning a musical instrument.

Children who do so are demonstrably higher achieving in academic subjects; they learn social skills, self-discipline and self-reliance, and build creative talents which transfer to many other areas of life.

The MIA has a charitable arm too, Music for All, which enables many children, often in tandem with local authority and school programmes, to hire or borrow an instrument and start lessons. There are so many examples of how a group of pupils start as complete beginners early in the term and are are able to give a concert by the end, and each year Music for All holds a national ‘learn to play’ day, which I will have in my diary for the spring.

There are concerns that the retail market in musical instruments is becoming dominated by one or two very large European online traders. This could threaten the high street music shop, which is an important source of expert, personal service and advice. Sadly Horsham’s music shop in East Street closed some time ago but we still have the piano centre. These local, independent shops are important, and deserve our support.

Lastly, I have been asked to commend to you the Police and Crime Commissioner’s new consultation about community punishments for anti-social behaviour, as an alternative to custody. I encourage you to have a look at it and share your views. We all know that our penal system has plenty of room for improvement, and any initiative to improve it with the support of the public has to be a good idea. You can find it at www.sussex-pcc.gov.uk/public-consultations and it runs until the end of September.