Suffolk to oppose new flight paths

MAJOR changes to aircraft routes and holding areas over Suffolk and plans for a second runway at Stansted are to be opposed by the county council, which is calling for planes to be stacked over the North Sea.

Graham Dines

MAJOR changes to aircraft routes and holding areas over Suffolk and plans for a second runway at Stansted are to be opposed by the county council, which is calling for planes to be stacked over the North Sea.

The National Air Travel Services (NATS), which plans to allow flights as low as 3,000 feet over parts of West Suffolk, is to be told that it has not “convincingly demonstrated” that change is necessary.

The county council believes there are practical alternatives to the published proposals which would give greater weight to the “preservation of the tranquillity of the countryside in Suffolk without causing unacceptable consequences for major population centres.”

The plans for revised flight paths and holding areas removes two existing stacking locations shared by planes heading for Stansted and Luton and replacing them with two for Stansted and one for Luton.

The impact on Suffolk includes:

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Flights over Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds at 4,000ft

Aircraft leaving the new holds for Stansted converging over Clare in the Stour Valley at 3,000ft

Aircraft heading for the east stack will overfly Felixstowe and Ipswich at 7,000ft to avoid the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale

Flights could be as low as 6,000ft in the area between Haverhill, Stowmarket and Ipswich

Areas which gain from the new holding areas and flight paths are Sudbury, where the minimum height will increase to 6,000ft as opposed to the current 4,000ft and the minimum altitude of overflights in the Haverhill area will increase from 2,000ft to 4,000ft.

The decision by NATS not to consider the overall growth in air traffic and the development of a second Stansted runway, which could significantly increase the impact of its proposals, is “regrettable,” says Suffolk's director of environment and transport Lucy Robinson in a report to be considered at the May 27 meeting of Suffolk county council's Cabinet.

“NATS has not yet presented a convincing case that change is needed now in the existing holding and routeing arrangements,” says Mrs Thompson.

“Given that a second runway at Stansted would significantly increase the volume of air traffic, there would be some benefit in delaying any changes until a decision on a runway is made.

“The NATS approach of minimising the number of people overflown at low level means the proposals appear to have a disproportionate impact on relatively quiet rural areas to the south of Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds and to the south of Stowmarket and the west of Ipswich.

“The proposals should give greater weight to the Government requirement that `the tranquillity of the countryside should be preserved where this does not increase significantly the environmental impact on congested areas.'

Calling for consideration for incoming flights to be re-timed to avoid the need for holding, Mrs Thompson says that if stacking must take place, Stansted arrivals from the east should circle the North Sea and then fly on a higher path to the Essex airport.

In a separate decision, the Cabinet is expected to reconfirm its opposition to a second runway at Stansted and to prepare evidence to the public inquiry pointing out the increased air traffic, noise and aircraft emissions over Suffolk.