Writing to the Civil Aviation Authority on behalf of his constituents, who are concerned that new flight paths into Southampton and Bournemouth will mean more low flying aircraft, Sir George asked for a number of assurances. This is the reply he received.
14 August 2007
Dear Sir George
Terminal Control South West Airspace Development
Thank you for your correspondence dated 6 August 2007 concerning the implications of the Terminal Control South West (TCSW) Airspace Change Proposal. You asked whether the CAA would be taking independent advice during its deliberations over the proposal and whether there would be an opportunity for MPs to make representations to the CAA over the proposal. The CAA's Chairman, Sir Roy McNulty, is currently away and his office have asked me to respond on his behalf as a member of the Directorate of Airspace Policy's Business Management Section overseeing the consultation process associated with the development of NATS' proposal.
The NATS TCSW proposal is being progressed in accordance with the Airspace Change Process, administered by the CAA and detailed in Civil Air Publication (CAP) 725. This process requires the sponsors of airspace changes to consult on the impact of those changes before presenting a formal proposal to the CAA's Directorate of Airspace Policy (OAP) for consideration. When considering an airspace change proposal, OAP must ensure that a proposal meets CAA regulatory requirements, including in respect of safety, consultation, environmental and operational factors, compliance with airspace design criteria, as well as ensuring that the proposal is operationally justified. This process is undertaken in accordance with the provisions of environmental Guidance and Directions given to the CM by the Secretary of State under Section 66(12) of the Transport Act 2000.
The sponsor consultation consisted of County and Borough Councils affected by the proposal as well as interest groups and parliamentary constituency offices, including your own. The consultation itself was undertaken in accordance with the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultation for the prescribed minimum of 12 weeks. Once NATS has analysed the responses to this consultation and concluded that the issues raised have been accommodated as far as possible, a formal proposal will be presented to OAP for consideration. The proposal will be subject to a Case Study lead by an experienced OAP Case Officer who will draw upon the CAA's Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) in establishing whether NATS has correctly assessed the environmental impact of the proposal and applied appropriate mitigation, where necessary. This, in turn, enables the Director of Airspace Policy, as the UK's airspace design authority to reach a balanced decision on whether the proposal should proceed. In this case, and in accordance with the Airspace Change Process, it would be appropriate for any representations concerning NATS' proposal to be directed to NATS as part of their consultation. This will ensure that the sponsor has the chance to consider and, if necessary, mitigate any issues before finalising and presenting their formal proposal for consideration by DAP. Whilst the consultation period ended on 10 August 2007, you may be interested to note that NATS have agreed to accept comments on its proposals for a further 4-week period.
Finally, should you wish to comment on the Airspace Change Process itself, or the way in which it has been applied, we would, of course, welcome your observations.
Directorate of Airspace Policy