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CAA approves major airspace change in the South East

27th November, 2015

The CAA has approved major changes to the airspace in the South East proposed by NATS as part of the ‘London Airspace Management Programme’ (LAMP). The decision is the first major development as part of the ‘future airspace strategy’ (FAS).

The CAA’s description of the changes focuses on anticipated efficiency improvements, and claims that they will ‘save’ 30,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. While welcome, such improvement needs to be seen in context: 30,000 tonnes represents only 0.08% of UK aviation CO2 emissions. The key driving force behind FAS, meanwhile, is the desire to increase aviation capacity by streamlining the operation of congested airspace. Government forecasts currently predict that air traffic growth will outpace technology and airspace improvements such that emissions from UK aviation will increase over time.

In terms of noise impacts, the CAA says that “the changes move significant numbers of flights away from populated areas”. But it has not be able to demonstrate whether or not this will increase the level of disturbance and annoyance associated with aviation in the South East. Sensitivity to noise can, for example, be affected by predictability, time of day, and the extent to which aircraft are dispersed or concentrated. How communities will respond to the changes remains to be seen. Previous plans to substantially redesign South East airspace (the TN North proposals) were eventually suspended following widespread opposition based on anticipated noise impacts.

Key changes now approved by CAA are:

  • A new Point Merge arrivals system will be introduced, replacing holding patterns for many aircraft inbound to London City Airport. CAA states that aircraft would be routed along the Thames Estuary for longer to reduce low-level flights and noise over Kent, Essex and East London. Aircraft departing London City to the south will be able to climb earlier.
  • Aircraft leaving Stansted to the south will now use the existing easterly route from the airport during the day. Aircraft taking off will also climb more quickly.
  • Arrivals will be re-routed away from the area around Goodwood, keeping aircraft over the Solent for longer, which CAA says will reduce noise from lower level flights in the Southampton and Bournemouth area.

These airspace changes follow on from a decision on departures from Gatwick Airport where three of the nine changes proposed were required to be modified. GACC, an AEF member group representing communities around Gatwick, react to the changes here.