‘Extreme care’ should be taken over proposals to change Stansted Airport departure routes, according to Uttlesford District Council

Uttlesford District Council

Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford District Council has called for “extreme care” to be taken over proposals to change departure routes from Stansted Airport.

The authority has sent its response to NATS, the air traffic control organisation which wants to switch most daytime traffic from the existing south-east (Dover) departure route to the existing east (Clacton) route.

Under this proposal – which would need to be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – more people would experience more overflying than the number who would experience less.

Uttlesford District Council’s response follows a review of the proposals by its Stansted Airport Advisory Panel.

The council has said it “strongly felt” that there was no “win-win” situation for residents, and raised concerns about the effects of increased overflying of Great Easton Primary School and the increased noise experienced at primary schools in Stebbing and Felsted.

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Aircraft would also be brought in closer proximity to the southern edge of Hatfield Forest, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, than is currently the case.

Councillor Jackie Cheetham, cabinet member with responsibility for aviation, said: “Extreme care must be taken in making a judgement about the merits or otherwise of this proposal.

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“It appears that the main motive for the change is congestion reduction and airspace efficiency improvements in the London Terminal Manoeuvring Area, rather than improving the living environment for local residents.

“In the Aviation Policy Framework (APF), the Government says it wants ‘to strike a fair balance between the negative impacts of noise and the positive economic impacts of flights’. It also states that its overall policy on aviation noise is ‘to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise’.

“NATS and London Stansted Airport need to clearly explain to the CAA how this proposal would comply with Government policy in the APF and its guidance on environmental airspace design objectives.”

She added: “If this proposal is to be implemented, there should be as a minimum a prior examination of whether the use of performance-based navigation could reduce the effect on the primary schools by either finding an optimal path within the Noise Preferential Routes swathe or by practising dispersal.”

The council said it recognised that there may be wider benefits of the proposal from improved fuel efficiency, reduced CO² emissions – albeit less than 1 per cent – reduced passenger delays and reduced congestion in London airspace. It is not clear, however, how these benefits are to be weighed against Government policy and guidance on mitigating noise impacts below 4,000ft.

“In country areas such as Uttlesford, aviation noise is more acutely felt because of the low background level of ambient noise,” added Cllr Cheetham.

“The proposal would have no effect on night noise, nor would it enable continuous descent on the Runway 04 approach, which would be the most beneficial of all the operational changes.”

The council is also aware of advice on continuous climb operations contained in the Sustainable Aviation’s Noise Road Map, and notes that these proposals would be implemented in advance of the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) Phase 2 programme in 2018-19.

No information is currently available on what the Phase 2 changes will entail, and the council has questioned the point of implementing these proposals now.

The authority is concerned that these proposals could act as a precedent for accepting revised protocols in LAMP Phase 2 on the basis that they have already been implemented. For this reason, the council believes that leaving the flight paths as they are at the moment until the whole new system is put out for consultation would be more beneficial to the residents of Uttlesford.

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