Nick Herbert: Flight path trial provokes complaints

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

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I’ve received numerous complaints from constituents in Kirdford, Wisborough Green, West Grinstead and other villages about noise from low flying aircraft from Gatwick.

The cause was a six-month trial of new flight paths, partly as a result of a consultation about London airspace formulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The trial came to an end earlier this month, although some constituents tell me that aircraft noise continues.

I’ve met with constituents about this issue and continue to take it up with the Chief Executive of Gatwick Airport.

I’ve also been working closely with Francis Maude, the MP for Horsham, whose constituents are also affected. We’ve raised the issues with the Transport Secretary, and are now asking for a meeting with the Chief Executive of Gatwick so that we can re-emphasise our concerns.

We’re challenging the assertion that there needs to be any new Noise Preferential Route in order for Gatwick to achieve a modest potential increase in hourly movements as a single runway airport.

We’re also very unhappy about the consultation itself. The document was long and technical, and it was not known about. The Chief Executive has confirmed to me that residents were not advised about the trial routes.

He assures me that ‘no firm decision’ will be taken on permanent new routings until feedback has been evaluated. Any decision to implement airspace change will be taken by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Government’s preference is to concentrate flightpaths rather than disperse them, so as to minimise disruption to communities. However, the trial route has clearly hugely increased disruption. I received no complaints about aircraft noise before.

Clearly local residents will be concerned that the trial route will become permanent, and I will argue strongly against it.

I think this issue foreshadows a longer-term concern, which is that further expansion at Gatwick could result in greater noise from flights over this part of West Sussex, as well as increasing development pressures on the County which are already a real problem.

Gatwick is running a high profile publicity campaign to promote a second runway. These issues are being considered by a Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies which will report next year.

I think that airport expansion is needed, and that it should be at Heathrow or, if the economics justify it, possibly ‘Boris island’, as the Thames estuary option has become known.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com