Villages lobby council over flight paths

VILLAGERS from across Suffolk have called for two new controversial aircraft stacking zones to be located over the North Sea to protect the tranquillity of the county.

VILLAGERS from across Suffolk have called for two new controversial aircraft stacking zones to be located over the North Sea to protect the tranquillity of the county.

More than 50 representatives of villages and market towns in west Suffolk and from the Stowmarket area packed the public gallery at yesterday's county Cabinet meeting to support the council's objections to the plans drawn-up by Nats - formerly National Air Traffic Service.

Two stacking areas for Stansted are proposed to replace the current one. This will mean aircraft overflying to the south of Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds at 4,000ft, flights converging over Clare at 3,000ft, areas south of Stowmarket and west of Ipswich will have flights at 7,000ft instead of the current 6,000ft, and a much broader swathe of the county from Haverhill to Ipswich would be overflown at altitudes down to 7,000ft.

County councillors voted to object to the plans and called on Nats to “prove convincingly” that practical alternatives had been investigated which would preserve the “tranquillity of the countryside in Suffolk without causing unacceptable consequences for major population centres.”

Leading the opposition to the proposals, environment portfolio holder Eddy Alcock claimed the organisation had failed to take into account the impact on sparsely populated areas.

He said the county's valuable tourism industry could be ruined, especially around Lavenham, and it could have a major effect on the multi-million pound SnOasis development at Great Blakenham.

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“It seems these changes are being made for the convenience of the airlines and have ignored the impact of people living on the ground.”

Mr Alcock reported on a meeting with Nats on May 19 where he urged it to stack aircraft over the North Sea. But the reaction had been that this could result in too many planes in one area for air traffic control to manage.

Nats also said that much of the airspace above the North Sea was not within UK jurisdiction and a stacking area could impact on the movements to and from continental European airports.

Jane Storey, the county's deputy leader, called for the economic aspects of the proposals to be taken into consideration, including tourism and the bloodstock industry in Newmarket.

After the meeting, campaigners gave their full support for the county council's decision. Among the towns and villages sending representatives to the meeting were Lavenham, Thorpe Morieux, Hitcham, Geddling, Cowlinge, Rattlesden, Nedging Tye, Whatfield, Kettlebaston, and Brettenham.

Linda Scott, vice-chairman of Cowlinge parish council, said: “We live in a quiet area and the Nats proposals will ruin it, with aircraft flying over every four minutes.”

n The Cabinet also agreed to join the group of councils in Essex and Hertfordshire which are objecting to the construction of a second runway at Stansted. Mr Alcock said it would increase the number of aircraft movements from the current 25million a year to 60m, which would lead to the skies over Suffolk becoming crowded with planes.