| Press Release - 23 February 2009
IT'S BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD FOR PROPOSED AIRSPACE CHANGES
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has welcomed news that the airspace change proposal put out to consultation by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) exactly a year ago is being taken back to the drawing board after an overwhelming thumbs down from people across the region.
NATS' plans to conduct a new consultation later this year on revised proposals for flightpaths and holding stacks in the area of south-east England known in airspace terms as Terminal Control North were revealed in a letter sent to Stop Stansted Expansion [see text of letter dated 19 February 2009 in Note to Editors below].
The proposal to change aircraft stacking areas, arrival and departure routes for planes using Stansted and other airports in the south east in the years to 2014 caused uproar across Essex, Herts, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire because of the threats posed to the tranquility of rural areas. Overall, there would have been more losers than winners around Stansted Airport, extra flying miles and increased emissions per flight. Many who had never been overflown would have seen a radical change in the character of their area.
SSE has been highly critical of the inadequacies of the original consultation, not least NATS' failure to offer any explanation for the proposals or to provide any meaningful information on the other options considered. SSE also sought proper examination of offshore stacking options and an explanation of the assessment methodology used in order to ascertain what level of importance NATS attached to environmental and community impacts as opposed to cost savings and efficiency gains for its airline shareholders.
The original consultation, which was billed by NATS as 'the biggest ever consultation on airspace change', caused a furore across the region as communities mobilized in force to oppose the plans. Of more than 15,000 responses received from members of the public (including 578 from MPs, local authorities, parish councils, environmental groups and other representative bodies), some 86 percent objected to the plans. Even the House of Commons Transport Committee instigated an inquiry into the proposal because of the widespread concerns and interest it sparked.
Commenting on the news, SSE Campaign Director Carol Barbone said: "For once, people power seems to have had an effect. We welcome the re-appraisal since the original proposal put forward by NATS would have created far more losers than winners, adding unnecessary extra flying miles and increased noise and emissions across rural East Anglia."
"Our hope now is that NATS comes back with proposals which take on board the widespread concerns which have been expressed," she concluded.
NOTE TO EDITORS
The text of the letter of 19 February 2009 sent by NATS to Stop Stansted Expansion reads as follows:
Dear Ms Barbone
TC North - February 2009 - Update
NATS is to conduct a new consultation, on revised proposals to redraw the aircraft route map in the area of south-east England known in airspace terms as Terminal Control North (TCN). This follows detailed consideration of feedback received during our original consultation in 2008; and from meetings last autumn with local authorities and representatives of AONBs to discuss feedback and options.
The second consultation will be later this year; the date is still to be decided, although it will not be before July. The revised airspace design is still being formulated, tested in simulation and assessed for safety, operational efficiency and impact on populations.
Alternative design rules for the use of Precision Area Navigation (P-RNAV) technology, which keeps aircraft on the route centre line more precisely than today's ground-based beacon technology, and which the Civil Aviation Authority requires as the basis for all new airspace design work, means that new options for some routes in the TCN area can now be considered.
The result is that in some instances we hope to present an alternative route for consideration, to allow a degree of choice for those in the area affected. We are also looking in detail at the precise positions of the holds in the original consultation and whether it is possible to include an alternative option upon which interested parties can offer a view.
We must emphasise once again that these proposals are not associated with any proposed airport developments such as a Stansted second runway or Heathrow third runway; they address existing air traffic management issues in this region. Any future planning approval for an airport development may require further airspace changes which would also be subject to consultation.
In the original consultation - which ran from 21 February to 19 June 2008 - we received 578 responses from MPs, local authorities, parish councils, environmental groups and other representative bodies. A further 14,647 responses were received from members of the public. More than a million pages were downloaded from our consultation website.
Many people were concerned that the proposal was "a done deal" and that NATS would not listen to feedback. We have been similarly clear that it was a genuine consultation and that we would listen to the views expressed; this second consultation demonstrates that we did listen and we have taken note and where possible options will be included for consideration. However, we are also very clear that doing nothing is not an option - and that the number of options available to us is extremely limited in this airspace, which is some of the most complex and congested in the world.
We will contact you again when we are able to confirm the dates for the consultation.
TCN Consultation Team
Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE: M 0777 552 3091, firstname.lastname@example.org