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AEF responds to CAA on airspace design consultation

30th June, 2017

In November 2015, following strong community opposition to a number of airspace change trials, the CAA published a report commissioned from the Helios consultancy recommending a complete overhaul of the process for airspace change. A new approach was needed, Helios said, to tackle fundamental problems in relation to the lack of transparency and poor community engagement.

Following a consultation in 2016 on its plans for implementing some of the Helios recommendations, the CAA has now drawn up a 294-page guidance document (plus environmental annex) setting out the proposed new process. Consultation on this document closes at midnight on Sunday 2nd July, and AEF has today submitted its response. Many of the proposals would implement the new policies which the Government recently consulted on.

The consultation questions focus on the transparency and clarity of the guidance material, rather than on the substance of the proposals. Nevertheless we make a number of general comments on the guidance overall and on the gaps left in the regulation of noise management:

  • while the guidance encourages engagement and transparency from airports, there is no apparent means of redress if people feel that the communication has been inadequate, or if they doubt the accuracy of the information provided
  • the guidance material may be suitable for specialist airport staff who need to understand the technical requirements of the process, but is too complex for use by local communities, who need clear and simple guidance on how to engage with a local airport about noise, how to find out whether an airport has recently implemented airspace changes, and how to participate in the airspace change process if it is ongoing
  • for as long as the CAA considers its primary duty to be about facilitating aviation growth, it will be unable to make impartial judgments about airspace change that balance the public interest with that of airports and airlines
  • the current process is seriously flawed in that it leaves no systematic opportunity for operational restrictions (such as limits on number of aircraft movements) to be imposed if the noise impact of a given airspace change becomes intolerable

We also comment on the detail of the proposed guidance, including calling for community consultation for airspace trials, more clarity over the weighting given to the results of cost benefit analysis as against community feedback, and penalties to be introduced if the ‘post implementation review’ finds that the environmental impacts of a change are significantly worse than those anticipated at the outset.

Our response can be read here.