10th October 2005

Rally against proposals for more night flights

Parliamentarians and Council Leaders join forces with campaign groups

Diary Date: Monday 24 October, 7-8.30pm, The Media Room, Central Hall, Storey’s Gate, Westminster, London SW1.

MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum are to join council leaders from communities affected by night flights at Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick at a rally on 24 October at Central Hall, Westminster to demand that the Government fulfills its pre-election promise to bear down on aircraft night noise. They will also sign a formal call for action for delivery to Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

Shadow Transport Secretary Alan Duncan, Shadow Aviation Minister Julian Brazier and Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Tom Brake have already accepted invitations to attend alongside MPs from the communities severely affected by night flights. Among the Stansted MPs will be Oliver Heald, Brooks Newmark and Mark Prisk. Baroness Hamwee and Lord Jenkin will also speak.

Council representatives from across the region will also be present, together with Uttlesford District Council’s leader, Cllr Mark Gayler, representing the Stansted area. They will address an expected audience of more than 100 invited community representatives and members of the public.

Members of Stop Stansted Expansion and Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign will also take part alongside Heathrow’s HACAN ClearSkies.

The timing of the rally coincides with the Department for Transport’s (DfT) review of current night flying arrangements at the three London airports for the period to 2011/12. The consultation, which ended in September, attracted responses from local authorities, campaign groups, the aviation industry and the public which the DfT is now considering.

The DfT’s plans to allow a substantial increase in the number of night flights have caused anger and alarm amongst local communities, not least around Stansted Airport where a 41 per cent increase is proposed. At Heathrow half a million people would be affected by the impacts of a further 620 night flights annually if the current limits were raised. Meanwhile, airport operator BAA and Gatwick airlines have enraged the people of Surrey and Sussex by their efforts to secure a significant rise in numbers over and above the relatively reasonable limits being proposed by the Government.

Concerns centre on the fact that London’s three main airports already suffer an average 198 flights each night (2003 figures) in the eight hour period between 11pm and 7am. Of these, 77 flights occur in the ‘controlled’ night period between 11.30pm and 6am and the remaining 121 during intense periods of activity in the late evening (11pm 11.30pm) and early morning (6am-7am) ‘shoulder’ periods when numbers are not controlled a source of particular annoyance to local residents.

The importance of at least eight hours undisturbed sleep, particularly for school and pre-school children, has led to calls by Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick campaigners as well as many local authorities for the noise quota period to be extended to at least the full 8 hour night-time period (from 11pm to 7am), with moves towards a total ban on night flights.

Commenting on the proposals, Chris Bennett who chairs Stop Stansted Expansion’s noise working group said: “The Government promised before the election that it would ‘bear down’ on the problem of night flights. It has now announced that it intends to allow a 41% increase in night flights at Stansted over current levels. This is political cynicism at its worst – playing games with democracy at the expense of ordinary people who are asking for nothing more than a decent night’s sleep.”

Editors are invited to send photographers and journalists to cover the event. Photographs will also be available from Stop Stansted Expansion afterwards. Media are welcome to travel to the rally on the coach being organised by Stop Stansted Expansion. Contact Carol Barbone (see below) for details. Members of the public wishing to attend can also reserve places on the coach by contacting the SSE campaign office on 01279 870558.

NOTES

1. The commitment to ‘bear down’ on night noise was made in The Future of Air Transport”, White Paper, December 2003, para 3.12, page 33. www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_aviation/documents/page/dft_aviation_031516.pdf

2. The aggregate 2003 figures for night flights quoted in this release and on which the Stage 2 Consultation has been based are from Stage 1 of the DfT ‘s Night Flights Consultation (pg 38) which quotes flight numbers as follows:
– Stansted: 21,332 flights between 11pm-7am; 9,046 flights between 11.30pm and 6am
– Heathrow: 25,125 flights between 11pm-7am; 5,969 flights between 11.30pm and 6am
– Gatwick: 25,910 flights between 11pm-7am; 13,155 flights between 11.30pm and 6am
See www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_aviation/documents/page/dft_aviation_029818.pdf

3. At Stansted, the number of flights in the year to 31 March 2005 was actually 8,502. DfT proposes an annual quota of 12,000 night flights for Stansted for the next six years i.e. 41% above the present baseline. DfT is attempting to present its proposals as signifying no increase for Stansted because 12,000 is the current quota.

4. Stop Stansted Expansion has made a comprehensive response to the DfT consultation, arguing the case for night flights restrictions in more detail. This can be viewed on the Night Flights page.

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport