Despite a vigorous campaign led by Sir George and supported by other MP's, the Civil Aviation Authority has backed plans from NATS to allow civil aircraft to overfly villages and communities in his North West Hampshire constituency.
(See Decision letter below)
"I am obviously disappointed that the new flight path has been approved. While the concessions on night flights are welcome, I wonder how long they will last. I am in touch with those who campaigned against these proposals on my next move."
NATS Terminal Control South West Airspace Development
In my letter of 16 January 2008, I told you I would write again once I had made my decision on the NATS TCSW Airspace Changer Proposal; that is the purpose of this letter. I have attached a copy of my Decision Letter that sets out the justification for my decision; however, I thought it might be helpful if I addressed the specific issues that you have raised previously. Your concerns centred on the efficacy of NATS' consultation exercise, the justification for the proposal and your request that I refer my decision to the Secretary of State for Transport due to the detrimental effect that the change would have on the environment. I will seek to deal with each point in turn.
Firstly, I can now confirm that following the Case Study undertaken as part of the Airspace Change Process by my staff, I have decided to approve the TCSW airspace change. However, the Case Study identified that the justification used by NATS during the consultation had caused uncertainty over the exact intent of the proposal and I intend to make this clear in my decision. I have decided that the southerly extension to the airspace from the Hungerford area to abeam Southampton is to be used only in the manner described in the ACP, primarily for Southampton arrivals to Runway 02 and Bournemouth inbounds from the north. Consequently, I have determined that the operating hours for the southerly, R41 extension, will be aligned with the opening and closing times of the Solent Terminal Control Area (CTA), but will not be available for the period 0930-1730 local, nor the full overnight period from 1730 to 0930 requested in the original proposal. Thus, the operating hours will be:
Winter 0630-0930 then 1730-2130
Summer 0545-0930 then 1730-2130 (all times local)
This provides reassurance over the objectives of this airspace change and gives significant environmental mitigation, particularly at night.
Within the Consultation Document, a stakeholder distribution list was included, as was a request for stakeholders to cascade the consultation information to additional stakeholder groups. Following representations, I directed that an extension to the consultation period was required to allow additional stakeholder groups adequate time to respond. Considering carefully the responses received, I am satisfied that those individuals and organisations covered by the Airspace Change Process have had an adequate opportunity to comment.
Finally, I was guided in my decision by the independent Environmental Assessment provided by the CAA's Environmental Research and Consultancy Department, a copy of which is attached to my Decision Letter. This Assessment concluded there were a number of environmental impacts that will result from implementing this airspace change. Some environmental factors show a negative impact, for example, noise from commercial aircraft may be audible in areas that do not currently experience aircraft noise. Others show a positive impact like the predicted reduction in CO2 emissions flowing from greater airspace efficiency. Some cannot be objectively assessed but it is probable that they will have some impact. For example, aircraft over-flying areas that are not currently over-flown may be a source of visual intrusion and may have a negative impact upon tranquillity. Conversely, aircraft that previously overflew densely populated areas of Southampton will in future fly over sparsely populated areas. It is difficult to determine the precise impact at some locations due to the planned altitudes of the small number of aircraft that intend to use the airspace. However, as the noise assessment predicts that noise levels will be unlikely to cause additional annoyance above the accepted threshold or sleep disturbance, I have concluded that the emissions benefits to climate change outweigh the localised noise and tranquillity impacts thereby resulting in a net environmental benefit. I have concluded that the Terminal Control South West ACP will deliver an overall environmental benefit and thus, I will not refer my decision to the Secretary of State for Transport. My staff will, however, monitor the new arrangements closely post-implementation in order to ensure that anticipated improvements to capacity and delay are delivered. I hope that I have answered the specific points that you raised.
1. NATMAC Informative Letter: Changes to the Airspace Structure that links the Midlands to the South Coast (ERM/TCSW ACP/NA TMAC dated 29th January 2008