Delight as Suffolk’s skies are saved

DEFIANT campaigners are celebrating as the threat of planes circling over Suffolk’s picturesque villages could have been lifted.

Air traffic service NATS sparked public outcry when it announced plans to introduce two new stacking loops in skies over Cockfield, Newmarket, Thorpe Morieux and Needham Market to hold planes heading for Stansted in 2008.

But due to a downturn in air traffic levels, NATS has now shelved its expansion plans until at least 2013.

Frances Bee, founder of Save our Silence Action Group (SOSAG), said supporters were thrilled by the news.

“We re all absolutely delighted,” she said. “We have been overwhelmed by people saying how relieved they are.

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“It is a great relief and, now the threat has gone away, I think it’s gone for good.”

NATS, formerly the National Air Traffic Service, wanted to move a stacking area for planes heading in to Stansted Airport to an area affecting 32 Suffolk villages, centred on the historic village of Lavenham.

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Around 300 protesters from across the county - including people living in areas around Sudbury, Newmarket and Stowmarket - took their fight to London in 2008, lobbying NATS’ headquarters in the capital.

Following fierce opposition to a public consultation in 2008, NATS announced there would be no second consultation until the end of September this year.

But after a downturn in air traffic levels since 2008, which are not expected to return to their peak until at least 2013, air space bosses announced there was now less urgency to increase capacity in the Terminal Control North (TCN) area.

This meant they would not be taking the proposals forward in their current form but warned doing nothing is ‘not a long-term option.’

Alex Bristol, development and investment director for NATS, said better air traffic management techniques meant air space bosses were now reviewing Britain’s entire air-space structure.

“The TCN benefits are very much a part of helping us deliver bigger benefits, albeit on a longer time scale,” he said.

Tim Yeo, MP for south Suffolk, welcomed the news, saying he hoped Suffolk’s skies could be safe once and for all.

“I think common sense has prevailed,” he said. “I am very pleased about this.

“This gives us a breathing space and, hopefully, these proposals won’t come back.”

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, who also campaigned against the scheme, said: “This shows what people power can do.”

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