Villagers celebrate flightpaths victory

By Juliette Maxam, Alison Withers and David LennardCAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after winning their battle against aircraft noise shattering the tranquillity of Constable country.

By Juliette Maxam, Alison Withers and David Lennard

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after winning their battle against aircraft noise shattering the tranquillity of Constable country.

However, residents who will now have the planes flying over their rural villages greeted the decision with dismay.

The National Air Traffic Services has decided from March jet planes will no longer routinely fly over the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) en route to Stansted and Luton Airports.

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Aircraft will instead be directed to a new holding stack north-east of Ipswich and to an existing stack north-west of Sudbury from March 18.

In addition, main flightpaths from west to east, from Manchester and Midlands airports, will be re-routed across north Suffolk rather than over the Stour Valley.

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However, planes on the new routes above Ipswich and Sudbury will fly 2,000 feet higher than aircraft currently flying over the Dedham Vale so disturbance under the new flightpath should be substantially less than it is as present.

The new routes will only apply to pressurised aircraft and unpressurised aeroplanes will continue to be directed over the Dedham Vale, but these are mainly propeller-driven and relatively few in number.

The move is a victory for the Dedham Vale Society, which has been calling for an end to aircraft noise over the AONB - set up to protect the countryside immortalised by John Constable - since planes were routed above it in 1999.

Dedham Vale Society president, Robert Erith, said; “The fact that the Dedham Vale will no longer be under the main flightpath is greatly to be welcomed and will bring intense relief to all those now suffering from excessive aircraft noise.

“It's a major achievement. There's considerable cost involved to the National Air Traffic Services. It's not being implemented until March because computers need to be reprogrammed, pilots retrained and air traffic controllers retrained. It's a major undertaking.”

Dedham Parish Council chairman, Jean Hammond, added: “We are very pleased that aircraft will be diverted and that not so many aircraft will be flying over the Dedham Vale.”

But Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, pledged to fight on behalf of villagers living in the areas of the new flightpaths, such as Bildeston.

“I am just as concerned about this new proposal as I was about the old one. I will continue to fight on behalf of residents in those other villages against what the National Air Traffic Services is suggesting,” he said.

Robin Taylor, chairman of Bildeston Parish Council, said was concerned about the effect the decision would have on the tranquillity of the village.

“I do have concerns because we don't know what the effects will be, nor the detail of the height of flights, but it is concerning and I don't think it's right that they should be moving the noise from one area to another,” he added.

Andrew Lindsley, headmaster of Bildeston Primary School, added: “If this decision is going to mean low-flying planes passing over the school regularly during school hours, I'm concerned for learning, especially having taught near Luton Airport where we regularly had to pause for a plane to pass.”

Councillors and officials in north Suffolk are also making urgent inquiries to find out more details about the flightpath changes.

Waveney District Council leader, Peter Austin, said: “There is much we need to establish in this matter as I admit I was not aware of these changes.

“It will, of course, depend on the frequency and height that these aircraft will be travelling over north Suffolk, that will be crucial.”

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