Campaigners fighting plans for new flight paths and a second runway at Gatwick have called for a wave of public meetings to be held by all town and parish councils around the airport.
Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) has made the call with the launch by Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL) of the second phase of its airspace consultation on its new flight path proposals.
GAL is calling for local residents to give feedback on the development of specific new arrival and departures routes east and west of the airport.
The second and much more locally-focused phase of consultation will build on feedback given during the first consultation, the wider London Airspace Change Consultation, which closed in January.
This latest 12-week consultation will run until Friday, August 15, and is available online at: www.gatwickairport.com/gatwickairspaceconsultation Feedback can be given directly on the website.
Airport bosses have said relevant MPs, parish councils and local authorities will be written to, and said Gatwick is also engaging directly with some affected communities, and is willing to arrange briefing sessions with other communities upon request.
A spokesman for Gatwick Airport said: “The maps and consultation document will show where possible new flight paths east and west of the airport, including respite routes, will go, and residents are encouraged to give their feedback either directly or via their local MP or councillor.”
He said: “This will feed directly into where flight paths will be directed and where respite routes can be delivered. “Respite routes will allow the airport to alternate flight paths completely for a period of time.”
He continued: “No new communities will be overflown – with the exception of those affected by a potential new departure route to the west of the airport.
“Residents will also have the chance to feedback on the widths of new and existing Noise Preferential Routes (NPRs).
“This is critical as this defines the areas that aircraft overflight can be experienced. “The more narrow the NPR, the less people will be potentially overflown by aircraft. However, it does concentrate flights to a smaller area.”
NPRs can be 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 2,000 metres in width.
Tom Denton, head of corporate responsibility at London Gatwick, said: “Our local residents and communities are a key priority when it comes to airspace change. “We want to minimise noise for as many people as we possibly can, and, where that’s not possible, offer respite options as a mitigating measure.”
He said: “We urge all local communities to have their say in this second phase so we can benefit as many people as possible.”
But GACC has attacked the flight paths consultation, saying the proposals “could represent the biggest change in the noise impact of Gatwick for a generation,” yet branding the document explaining them “difficult to understand.”
Warning that “these proposals could have a serious impact on many towns and villages around the airport,” and stating the “new flight paths will potentially affect an area from Guildford to Tunbridge Wells and from Petworth to Sevenoaks,” the group said in a letter sent out to all its members and the area's MPs that it “is extremely concerned about these proposals” and urged all affected to carefully study the consultation document.
In the letter, the group, 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, attacked the consultation paper in its initial reaction on various grounds - one of the strongest being what it calls its lack of maps showing the full length of the new flight paths.
GACC branded this “a disgrace.”
Among other points raised by the group in the letter, GACC stated: “Any change in flight paths causes great distress and anger because the previous peace is shattered, expectations of future peace are destroyed, houses are devalued and people are unable to move and feel imprisoned.”
GACC continued: “The consultation covers too small an area because disturbance is experienced far beyond the noise contours, particularly in areas where background noise is low.”
And on the calls for a second runway at Gatwick,GACC stated: “The proposed new flight paths all relate to the existing runway.
“If ever a new Gatwick runway were to be built, all the flight paths will need to be revised, with new flight paths over areas at present peaceful.
“So why cause extra hassle now, when there is no urgent need for change?”
The group cautioned that there is a risk the consultation “will set community against community.”
“ Anger should be directed at the airport, not at your neighbours,” it said, adding: “The 60 page consultation document is written in technical language and is difficult for lay people to understand.
“GACC will be asking for a simpler version to be sent to all those under the new flight paths, and for public meetings to be held so that people can understand what is proposed.” The group stated: “If the parish or town is not affected by the new flight paths, then GACC suggest that a meeting should be held to discuss the proposals for a new runway.”
GACC vice chairman John Byng, said: “Many people are telling us that the flight path document is difficult to understand.
“The proposals affect each area differently, so we believe that local meetings are the best answer.”
Gatwick and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) recently consulted on significant changes to the airspace above and around Gatwick as part of the London Airspace Management Programme.
Airspace above the South of England is some of the busiest in the world and the consultation was the first stage in a wider programme of proposed changes to deliver the UK’s Future Airspace Strategy (FAS), which will be legally required to come into effect in 2020. Gatwick was the first major airport to consult on all levels of its airspace and all other airports will be required to follow suit. The first phase of consultation closed on January 21, and since then, Gatwick has been analysing the feedback it received, and using it to develop and analyse detailed arrival and departure options.
Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the busiest single-runway airport in the world. Serving more than 200 destinations in 90 countries for around 35 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services, it is a major economic driver for the South-east, generating around 23,000 on-airport jobs and a further 13,000 jobs through related activities. It is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is the largest shareholder.