New traffic control could see planes fly over Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 17:18 22 February 2008 | UPDATED: 21:23 31 May 2010

PLANES departing from Stansted Airport to the north-east will fly directly over Saffron Walden, if new air traffic control proposals are adopted. A consultation document published by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) last week details proposals for

PLANES departing from Stansted Airport to the north-east will fly directly over Saffron Walden, if new air traffic control proposals are adopted.

A consultation document published by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) last week details proposals for a rearrangement of flight paths into and out of Stansted, as well as holding areas for planes queuing to land.

Current north- and west-bound departures taking off in a north-easterly direction from Stansted pass over Chickney before arcing west and ascending over Wicken Bonhunt, Arkesden and Clavering.

Under the new proposals, departures would head further north before bearing west, meaning these three villages would face less noise, but Wimbish, Radwinter and Saffron Walden would lie directly under the flight path.

Between 6am and 11pm, this would mean an average of around nine planes an hour taking off on the route. Peak usage could see a plane ascending over Saffron Walden more frequently than every five minutes, but the spread of the planes' paths would probably mean that they were not all visible and audible to the same people.

Departures heading east and south-east would not change under the proposals.

According to NATS statistics, planes at a height of 3000-4000ft, the height they should reach by the time they fly over Saffron Walden, produce between 60 and 77 decibels of noise. The threshold for serious noise annoyance is around 57 decibels - the approximate typical volume of background music in a café or restaurant, or a quiet conversation from the listener's perspective.

Stop Stansted Expansion's noise committee chairman, Martin Peachey, said: "The new routes meant that aircraft would be flying over communities that have previously enjoyed relative tranquillity where overflying will make a greater impact because of the absence of other background noise."

Planes landing at Stansted will continue to fly directly over Thaxted and Chickney as they have previously, but changes in the holding areas where planes queue to land could mean residents of some villages in the Reporter area face greater levels of noise.

Previously, the western holding area for landing planes was located over Melbourn and Royston, but the new proposals move this to an area of airspace over villages including Linton, Balsham, West Wickham and Hadstock.

NATS has relocated the holding areas with the aim of having planes circling above less populated areas - in total 22,000 less people live underneath the proposed locations than the current ones.

The consultation document has taken almost four years to complete. Its purpose is to outline "the optimum balance between the many and often competing needs and requirements of the various groups affected".

To view the substantial consultation document, visit www.nats.co.uk/TCNconsultation. All responses must have been received by NATS by May 22.

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