Flight path anger leads to legal action

ANGRY campaigners have launched legal action against aviation bosses claiming that plans to redirect a flight path away from an area of outstanding natural beauty have not worked.

ANGRY campaigners have launched legal action against aviation bosses claiming that plans to redirect a flight path away from an area of outstanding natural beauty have not worked.

The Dedham Vale Society and barrister Tom Hill, from the nearby village of Bentley, have started civil proceedings against the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) following the change of the Suffolk flight paths in March last year.

The new paths were introduced when NATS earmarked a spot two miles east of Claydon for a new stack to be used to hold planes approaching Stansted Airport.

The area acts as an overflow site for the main Abbot Holding Stack above the Sudbury area with planes following a flight path from the North Sea.

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In addition a new flight path north of Ipswich was created in order to increase capacity for air traffic controllers directing flights over southern East Anglia, with the beneficial side effect of relieving the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

However a year on some residents claim that very little has changed since the new paths came into operation.

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They claim that if anything the Dedham Vale is experiencing more air traffic intrusion than ever before and that the new paths have simply been ignored.

Mr Hill said: "I have to confess I didn't know a lot about the flight paths until this time last year because living in Bentley it really wasn't something that affected me.

"However over the summer months I noticed a lot more aircraft activity so decided to investigate what was going on.

"When I looked into it I discovered about the airspace change and it was suggested that it would be places to the north of Ipswich that would be affected not places such as Bentley.

"That's when I thought something must have gone wrong. What was happening just didn't seem to accord with the plans.

"One of the alleged advantages of the new plans was that it would take air traffic away from the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but this doesn't seem to have been the case.

"There were people who expressed support for the new paths at the time that wouldn't have done so if they knew what was going to happen."

Meanwhile chairman of the Dedham Vale Society Wifred Tolhurst said that if anything the number of aircraft entering the Vale had actually increased.

"We have suffered more intrusion in the past year than there ever was before," he said. "There has been more intrusive flying than in the past. It appears we have been misled over the original plans."

Katherine Blake, manager of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Countryside Project, added: "I don't actually live in the Vale itself so cannot comment directly but in terms of what I've been told it does seem that there is more air traffic over the area than before.

"In the initial consultations we were told that it would improve the situation but as far as I'm aware this hasn't happened."

The action has been brought primarily against the CAA because they authorised the final plans suggested by NATS.

A spokesman for the CAA said: "I can confirm that there is a civil action but as yet no date has been set. We will however be contesting the claim."

A spokesman for NATS added: "We cannot comment on the civil action because we are not the primary party concerned however I will say that in terms of airspace management the re-sectoring has been extremely successful.

"The new flight paths have reduced aircraft delays and holding in that area by more than 90%."


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