Campaigners' anger over night flights

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to plans for a substantial increase to the number of night flights over East Anglia have demanded immediate action at a major rally held in London.

CAMPAIGNERS opposed to plans for a substantial increase to the number of night flights over East Anglia have demanded immediate action at a major rally held in London.

Members of Stop Stansted Expansion joined MPs at the event last night to call upon the Government to stick to a pre-election promise to “bear down” on the problem of aircraft noise.

Residents across the region have seen a significant increase in the number of night-time flights in recent years with many suffering from problems of sleep disturbance as a result.

Last night more than 400 people including MPs, councillors and campaigning residents, gathered in Westminster for the rally, which coincided with the Department for Transport's review of the current night-time flying arrangements at the three London airports up to the end of 2012.

The concerns centre on the capital's three main airports, including Stansted, which are already “suffering” an average of 198 flights between them each night in the period between 11.30pm and 6am.

The Government has recently completed its consultation process, and although existing controls limiting the airport to 8,500 night flights annually are set to be in place until at least October next year, it is expected to allow proposals which would see night flights increase by more than 40% at Stansted.

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Carol Barbone, campaign director for Stop Stansted Expansion, said the issue needed resolving quickly.

She added: “It went tremendously well and with cross party support the Government will have to listen.

“The MPs made it very clear this evening that the Government may be deaf the first time we ask, even the second and third times, but if we make our voices heard we can influence policy.”

“The Department for Transport'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.”

Chris Bennett, who chairs Stop Stansted Expansion's noise working group has 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.”

The event was organised by a Heathrow anti-noise group, HACAN ClearSkies in association with campaigners from the Stansted and Gatwick airport areas.

Those gathered also signed a formal call for action which will be delivered to Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling.

Braintree MP Brooks Newmark, South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo and Mark Gayler, leader of Uttlesford District Council, were among the representatives from north Essex at the rally.

HACAN chairman John Stewart, said: “This rally showed just how much opposition there is to the hated night flights.

“Politicians from all parties have joined with local authorities and community groups to call on the Government to think again about night flights and to cut the numbers significantly.”

A Government decision on the issue is expected in the next few weeks. No-one from The Department for Transport or Stansted Airport was available for comment last night.

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