16th June, 2015
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has published a policy statement on operational airspace change trials. The audience at our flight paths seminar in December 2015 were supportive of a review of the process for airspace change and trials specifically.
On environmental impacts, the policy document states “the residual level (following any mitigation measures) of environmental impact will inform the level of consultation/engagement required of the trial sponsor prior to the start of any trial.” This places the responsibility to determine whether an airspace change sponsor has achieved an appropriate level of consultation on the CAA, but the extent to which it should vary with potential environmental impacts remains unclear.
In response to previous community complaints, the policy statement identifies that trial sponsors, such as the airport or NATS, should be as clear as possible about the duration of any trial. Download the statement here.
The CAA has also announced that it will be reviewing the process for airspace change, CAP725. It is beginning to engage the public about the Authority’s intended approach. The industry regulator is expected to engage directly with stakeholders over summer 2015 but with a focus on the process rather than any outcomes, such as increases in noise. In the autumn, there will then be a formal public consultation on any proposed changes to the CAP725 policy.
AEF’s position is that following the public’s reaction to recent airspace trials, a change in policy is needed. Although many of the complaints from these trials related directly to the associated environmental impacts, a large proportion focused on transparency, the lack of communication about the objectives underpinning the trial, and how the process would take their concerns into account. To be successful, this update to both policy and process must seek the early involvement of communities, and demonstrate how concerns will be reflected in decision-making.