Hundreds unite in flightpath battle

HUNDREDS of residents from some of Suffolk's most tranquil villages last night joined forces to fight plans to rapidly increase air travel above their homes.

Dave Gooderham

HUNDREDS of residents from some of Suffolk's most tranquil villages last night joined forces to fight plans to rapidly increase air travel above their homes.

The true extent of the plans to move flight paths over Lavenham and the surrounding area was revealed with a massive 37 villages affected and estimates that one aircraft would be heard every two minutes in the countryside during peak times.

At a packed public meeting in Lavenham last night, residents from neighbouring communities vowed to unite in protest against the plans and called on alternatives, including re-routing flights over the sea, to be looked at.

South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo and Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, led calls for every resident to lobby NATS, formerly the National Air Traffic Service, after it revealed plans to shift Stansted Airport's stacking zone away from Sudbury.

Frances Bee, the Thorpe Morieux resident who spearheaded the meeting and action group, Save Our Silence, said 5,000 leaflets had been sent out to residents across the affected area explaining the plans.

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She added: “One of the criteria is that flights are to be directed to low populated density areas but almost by definition this means the quieter areas with little or no background noise.

“But the proposals have not taken into account the relevant impact on one of the most tranquil areas of Suffolk - we will be affected much worse than before.”

The meeting also heard from Alan Line and Dick Histed, from the South Suffolk Air Traffic Action Group, who warned that the noise would be increasingly audible if plans to expand Stansted Airport were passed.

Among the audience, David Warren, from Brent Eleigh, said: “I think the increase would change our quality of life as even now on a summer evening, you notice planes more frequently. I just hope the consultation process is worth something and NATS listens to what people have to say.”

Fears have also been expressed about the impact the new flights could have on house prices and tourism in the area. Speaking prior to the meeting, Tim West, chairman of the Lavenham Merchant Guild, said: “We represent about 55 businesses and about half of those are connected to the local tourist industry.

“Their concern is obviously one of noise and one big sell of Lavenham is its peace and quiet. People are not expecting to come to the village to hear aircraft noise and they certainly wouldn't come back.”

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