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London event marks end of NATS airspace consultation

June 19, 2008

To mark the last day of the NATS airspace consultation, campaigners held an ‘event’ in central London. Campaigners and MPs spoke to the press and were photographed with banners and placards. They then delivered a letter to to NATS headquarters.

NatsConsultDemo

National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS) launched a consultation into possible changes to airspace in the South East of England (including the east of England) in February. The consultation was extended to 19 June. See earlier story.

The letter to NATS was signed by local residential, amenity and environmental groups and about 10 MPs. The letter says:

.. “We are dismayed that over half a million people will be over-flown for the first time. Life will never be the same again for many people living in both urban areas and in some of the most peaceful parts of the countryside.

We are calling on NATS to listen to what the local communities which would be newly over-flown are saying and to reconsider these proposals.”

Richard Spring, MP for West Suffolk, and David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, (both Conservative) attended the event; other MPs sent messages of support.

A major shortcoming of this (and other) flight path consultations is that NATS have no defined or agreed method of evaluating, presenting or balancing environmental impacts. Thus, there is no proper basis for either consulting or reaching decisions.

For example, NATS seems to have a de-facto policy of shifting flight paths over areas where less people are ‘overflown’. This means putting flight paths over new areas which up to now have been tranquil. But this ignores the fact that the impact of an aircraft in an otherwise tranquil area is vastly greater than in an area that already has noise. It also ignores the fact that people go the country, to parks etc, exactly because they are tranquil.

Another example is the ‘choice’ offered by NATS between direct paths to airports, which will minimise greenhouse gas emissions, and some non-direct paths, which might create less noise nuisance. In the web-based response form, respondents are forced to choose between one and the other – otherwise the response is rejected. But without information on amounts of greenhouse gases, amounts of noise, economic costs of impacts etc, it is impossible to make an informed response. Not only is this a poor basis for public policy; it is unprofessional to lead respondents to answer in ways that can clearly be mis-used.