Stansted Airport: Business leaders called to justify high number of night flights.


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A PRESSURE group has called on business leaders to justify the high number of night flights allowed at Stansted Airport.

The Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) group wants to see the current quota of 12,000 night flights per year for the Essex airport halved but business groups say night flights must be protected as a vital part of the UK economy.

The row came yesterday, as interested parties submitted documents on the last day of a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation, which is seeking to review opinion on current night flying operations at London’s three main airports.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) claim overnight flights play a “unique role” ensuring both timely movements of freight and allowing business travellers to arrive at destinations ready for a full day’s work.

The CBI response document said: “More than simply flights that could not be undertaken during the day, night flights form an integral part of the business models of many of the UK’s key sectors - boosting exports through enhanced connectivity, increasing productivity, creating resilient supply chains and enhancing international competitiveness.”

It calculated that night flights contributed £1.2 billion to the economy in 2011, supporting 18,700 jobs and delivering £197 million in tax revenue.

But Martin Peachey, noise advisor to SSE, said he wants an open debate on why so many night flights are allowed. He said the impact of disturbed sleep on people’s efficiency at work and school, coupled with health and stress issues, means there’s an economic argument for saying night flights cause more harm than good.

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He said: “We aren’t denying the importance of big air freight to the UK economy but we would like business groups to justify why it has to come in at night. We are saying the disadvantages of night flights outweigh the benefits.”

Mr Peachey referred to a cost benefit analysis carried out for Heathrow night flights last year by CE Delft economic consultancy, which showed that a ban on Heathrow night flights could benefit the economy by £860 million over 10 years.

According to Mr Peachey, Stansted is allowed 12,000 night flights a year, more than twice as many as presently allowed at Heathrow. He said the quota was set in 2006 when there were plans for a second runway but now these proposals have abandoned the quota should be reduced.

Stansted handled 8,283 night flights in 2012, and SSE want to see the cap reduced to 7,500 night flights per year from October 2014 and by 500 flights in each subsequent year to bring it down to 5,500 annual night flights by October 2019.

The DfT expects to publish its proposals following on from the consultation in Autumn 2013.