Town braced for more air traffic

By Alison WithersMORE air traffic could be directed over Ipswich and some of Suffolk's most picturesque villages following a campaign to divert planes from Dedham Vale.

By Alison Withers

MORE air traffic could be directed over Ipswich and some of Suffolk's most picturesque villages following a campaign to divert planes from Dedham Vale.

The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) is proposing to change flight paths from March for some aircraft flying into Stansted and Luton Airports to take them away from the Dedham Vale.

It would mean some planes would instead be directed over the villages of Bildeston and Boxford as they make their approaches to the two airports.


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The move would also mean a new aircraft circling area, known as a holding stack, will be created 8,500ft over north and east Ipswich.

The new stack, called LAPRA, would be in addition to the ABBOT holding stack already used over Sudbury.

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Babergh District Council has been lobbying NATS, Stansted Airport and the Department for Transport to try to get aircraft noise above the Dedham Vale - an area of outstanding natural beauty - reduced.

Its head of planning policy and economic development, Neil Greig, said: “It is unfortunate that other areas will be affected, but in campaigning for a shift in emphasis away from the Dedham Vale it was clear that flight paths would have to be accommodated elsewhere.”

Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, who went with members of the Dedham Vale Society to lobby the Civil Aviation Authority to get the number of flights there reduced, welcomed the proposal as a partial victory.

But he added: “The problem with aircraft is they're much more noticeable in rural areas and villages than in towns, where there's noise almost 24 hours a day.

“Dedham Vale is a very tranquil area, so I fully support the change, but I'm afraid I would sympathise with residents of other villages who might suffer. “Having to move it to any other rural part of Suffolk is unfortunate, but even the existing use at Stansted is clearly increasing, which does mean the likelihood of more traffic over Suffolk.”

Wilfred Tolhurst, chairman of the Dedham Vale Society, said: “We're extremely pleased by the news. We've been lobbying for this and it does mean we have been partially successful.”

Katherine Blake, manager of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Trust, added: “We welcome this proposal, but understand that this will not completely remove air noise from the vale and that these flights will have to go somewhere else.”

A NATS spokesman said the changes were needed to allow air traffic control capacity to be improved so it could safely handle the current and expected volume of air traffic in the region.

“It is considered that the designs associated with this proposal will bring considerable environmental benefit to the Dedham Vale area of outstanding natural beauty as the volume of air traffic using Stansted and Luton airports increases in the future,” he added.

The spokesman said initially the new LAPRA stack over Ipswich would only operate when the ABBOT stack was full.

The proposals have been presented to the Civil Aviation Authority, but there is a consultation period up to August 1, details of which are on www.caa.co.uk.

alison.withers@eadt.co.uk

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