Conservation campaigners have attacked the Government's decision to postpone changes in the limits on night flights out of airports including Gatwick.

The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), which is the main environmental body concerned with Gatwick and which has as members nearly 100 borough, district and parish councils and environmental groups, covering about a 20-mile radius from the airport, called the Government's decision a “cop out.”

The group said that over the previous 15 years, there had been a gradual but steady reduction in the level of aircraft noise permitted at night.

But it said that this progress has now been put on hold until 2017. In a statement, GACC acknowledged that at present the number of night flights and the level of noise at night is well below the maximum level permitted by the Department for Transport.

GACC chairman Brendon Sewill said: “That is something we obviously welcome, but by making no change in the limits, the Government is leaving headroom for a possible increase above the current level.”

He stated that next summer, noise could rise by 20%.

GACC is asking for the quotas to be reduced to ensure that there is no more noise than at present.

Citing studies, it recently stated there is growing evidence that disturbed sleep leads to ill health.

Mr Sewill, of Stan Hill, Charlwood, added: “Gatwick’s much vaunted plans for expansion should not be at the cost of keeping residents awake.”

The consultation on night flying restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted is due to end on Friday, January 31.

In its response to the consultation, GACC stated: “If the proposals in this consultation – to do nothing until 2017 – are implemented, it would be a cop out, defined as a failure to face responsibilities.

“An opportunity to protect thousands of people who live near Gatwick Airport will have been missed.”

The group continued: “The consultation paper reads as if the decision to do nothing has already been taken.

“Nevertheless, in the perhaps naïve hope that the consultation is undertaken with an open mind, we ask the Government to reduce the size of the number and noise quotas at Gatwick, so as to ensure that there can be no worsening of the noise climate.”

GACC added: “This is the second time that setting a new night flight regime has been postponed.

“A year ago the reason given was the need to wait for the new White Paper. The White Paper has been published. “Now the excuse for inaction – that it is necessary to wait for a decision on the location of new runway capacity – is not convincing.

“Everyone knows that there may well not be political agreement to implement the recommendation of the Airports Commission.” The group concluded: “GACC still believes that in an ideal world there would be no night flights.”

However, it cited its call to reduce the size of the number and noise quotas at Gatwick as “practical suggestions for changes which could be made now.”

Online comments on the consultation should be sent to: