'Plane a minute' over region in 2030

ONE plane every minute will clog up flight paths over East Anglia if the Government goes ahead with plans for major airport expansion, campaigners have warned.

By Jonathan Barnes

ONE plane every minute will clog up flight paths over East Anglia if the Government goes ahead with plans for major airport expansion, campaigners have warned.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) said more than 335,000 people in the region could be "seriously affected" by noise within 30 years, covering an area of 478 square miles.

It warned the expansion of Stansted Airport with three new runways could see East Anglia hit with the "triple whammy" of new holding stacks, a new flight path and greater noise from road traffic – as well as increased air traffic.

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Flights on established paths over the region could become so busy that one plane every minute would be seen – and heard – soaring above beauty spots such as Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley.

The CPRE has published maps to show the possible growth of air travel across the UK, which it says could shatter the tranquillity of the countryside forever and affect 600,000 people.

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Its publication Flying to Distraction draws on research carried out by consultants TRL and maps out expected changes by 2030.

They include a new holding stack – where planes circle while awaiting clearance to land – near Chelmsford, a new flight path to an expanded Stansted Airport coming from the north and three of the four routes crossing the east coast increasing in the volume of flights.

Those routes would carry between 51 and 60 flights an hour over the region, compared to the current level of less than 35 an hour.

By 2030, more than 335,000 people in the region could be seriously affected by plane noise compared with 202,000 now, the CPRE claim.

The land affected could stretch to 478 square miles, much of it tranquil countryside. The option to expand Stansted with three new runways would also lead to a ten-fold increase in the number of people affected, and intrude into 153 square miles of mainly rural land, the report claims.

Paul Hamblin, CPRE's head of transport policy, said: "Those people who are currently affected by aviation noise are going to see a worsening situation while new areas which had previously escaped it are going to be affected.

"With a new holding stack, a new flight path and an increase in the noise of surface traffic, it could be a triple whammy for East Anglia."

The CPRE claim the expansion of Stansted would need a new holding stack to prepare planes to land, which could be located over rural Cambridgeshire between Cambridge and Ely.

The possible holding stack to the east of Chelmsford would be needed to accommodate a new airport at Cliffe, Kent.

In addition, the CPRE thinks a new flight path would be needed if Stansted was expanded or the Cliffe airport was built. This would likely be routed over Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

The Government's consultation exercise into air transport capacity closes on June 30 and the CPRE is encouraging people to send their comments to the Department of Transport and to their local MP – an Air Transport White Paper is expected before the year's end.

The CPRE warning comes after former Beirut hostage Terry Waite, from Hartest, near Bury St Edmunds, recently joined the Stop Stansted airport expansion campaign.

Mr Waite, a former special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury who was held for five years until his release in 1991, said he was "deeply troubled by the threatened devastation of the countryside".

"To destroy 326 homes, 64 of which are Grade-II listed buildings, to demolish over 1,000 acres of the Countryside Protection Zone and to build one of the biggest airports in the world at Stansted is to my mind, the very opposite to good development," he said.

"The countryside is a precious and dwindling asset. Once it is used up it has gone forever."

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