Francis Maude: Six months of misery in flightpath trial

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Tomorrow, Gatwick’s ADNID trial will end just one week before its scheduled date, after almost six months of intense misery for many of my constituents.

It began on 17th February without prior warning, and although it may be a plausible argument that advance notice might have coloured people’s perception of it, there was no doubt that by 8am on that Monday morning many residents - in Warnham particularly - were shocked beyond belief by the new intensity of the flights.

Since then I have been back and forth to the airport, the CAA, NATS and the Secretary of State for Transport who has written to me again following our recent meeting. The full text of the letter appears on my website, but the main points are these:

- London airspace is hugely busy and complex, and needs more capacity

- Gatwick is aiming to increase potential take-offs at peak times from 55 to 58 per hour from its single runway, and to do this it claims to need more focused fight paths, allowed by better on-board navigation systems

- As part of this goal, it is claimed that a new Noise Preferential Route must be adopted, and the current consultation (which ends on 14th August) aims to collect data on which of three routes is most preferred by local residents.

- Government policy is that the decision about new routes, which rests with the Secretary of State, will be based on reducing the numbers of people overflown, in a simple headcount exercise. But there are local circumstances which allow for other considerations to be taken into account, and this is our best hope of seeing off this threat. I continue to argue that within a few miles of an airport most people expect to be aware of planes, but as long as the nuisance is equitably shared, it is bearable and a trade-off against the convenience of having an airport nearby (for businesses as well as travellers). What is intolerable is when fewer people are very intensively overflown, to the extreme detriment of their lives.

- I also argue that as heights are counted above mean sea level, which does make sense as the only realistic datum, communities in elevated positions should have that elevation taken into account.

- As there seem to be many complaints about the airspace consultation itself, I have sought reassurance that the consultation being run by Ipsos Mori will be independently scrutinised by the CAA, using the raw data if necessary.

You are urged to respond to the consultation at gatwickairport.com/gatwickairspaceconsultation before 14th August, and also to the airport and to the address below if you have concerns about the presentation and methodology of the consultation, and its accessibility by ordinary members of the public:

Airspace Business Coordinator – Airspace, ATM and Aerodromes, Re: Gatwick Airspace Change SID Consultation, Safety and Airspace Regulation Group, CAA House, 45-59 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE

Email: airspacepolicy@caa.co.uk

I very much hope that we can achieve a fair result for all residents in Surrey and Sussex when this process is complete.