Campaigners celebrate flightpath victory

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect the peace and tranquillity of Constable Country by changing controversial aircraft flight patterns were celebrating last night after winning their battle against aviation bosses.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect the peace and tranquillity of Constable Country by changing controversial aircraft flight patterns were celebrating last night after winning their battle against aviation bosses.

A legal action brought by the residents of Dedham Vale against the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over the nuisance caused by over flying aircraft was settled in the High Court yesterday.

The CAA and National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which manages airspace use, agreed that in any future reorganisation of flight paths they will have regard to the potential environmental impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in north Essex and Suffolk, and the rivers Stour and Orwell.

The CAA also agreed the frequency of planes over-flying the Dedham Vale and surrounding area was “significantly greater” than had previously been anticipated.

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Last night members of the Dedham Vale Society, which brought the case, said they were delighted with the outcome but were unable to comment further because the court was still deciding on costs.

The residents were headed by barrister Thomas Hill, a specialist in planning and environmental law, who lives with his family at Bentley Manor, Bentley, near Ipswich.

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He said: “Unfortunately because the judge in the case is still deciding costs we have been advised that we cannot comment on the case. However we have reached an agreement with the CAA which is acceptable.”

Wilfred Tolhurst, chairman of the Dedham Vale Society, echoed Mr Hill's comments saying he was “delighted.”

And Christopher Garnett, Colchester Borough Councillor for Dedham and Langham said: “Hopefully they will make a considerable improvement in the summer months for those who want to use their gardens and for people out walking.

“Night-time can be a problem, coming out of church on Sunday evening, you can just see a mass of moving stars accompanied by the droan of the aircraft.”

However Lesley Ford-Platt, mayor of Sudbury, said she hoped the decision would not lead to more flights being made over densely populated areas such as Sudbury and Ipswich.

“I have to admit that if the decision means there will be more flights over areas where there is a greater population then I don't agree with it,” she said. “Where is it better for there to be a crash - over an area where there is very few people or over larger towns like Sudbury and Ipswich?

“The residents in this area are fed up with the noise caused by aircrafts and if the High Court decision means this will increase then we will be unhappy. It is the case of a minority acting against the majority.”

During a three-day hearing in London last week, attended by members of the Dedham Vale Society, residents accused the CAA of ruining the peace and tranquillity of the countryside painted so often by John Constable by allowing “dramatic and unexpected” changes to aircraft flight patterns.

In a legal challenge backed by the 800-strong Dedham Vale Society, Mr Hill said his family and thousands of others became victims of noise and visual intrusion after changes were made to the use of air space over East Anglia by aircraft using Stansted airport.

At the hearing yesterday, John Steel QC, for the residents, told the judge the parties agreed to settle on the basis that CAA and NATS, in any reorganisation of airspace which they were currently considering, would have regard to environmental effects on the two AONBs in terms of aircraft noise and visual intrusions.

Last night a spokesman for the CAA said: “Although the case is not yet fully concluded, the CAA and NATS have reached a settlement with the claimants that ensures that due consideration will be given to the environmental impacts arising from the Clacton Airspace Change when any future proposals for airspace design and use over this part of south-east England are presented to the CAA.

“This consideration will be in line with the CAA's duties as set out in the Transport Act 2000 and the Air Navigation Directions issued by the DfT.”

Richard Wright, spokesman for National Air Traffic Services Ltd (NATS), said: “Although NATS is an interested party the High Court action was against the CAA not NATS.

“We are in the very, very early stages of looking at the next generation of airspace developments, which would include East Anglia. We are certainly looking at the aspects over East Anglia but it is early days yet.”

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