Residents fear superhighway in the sky

Gatwick planes SUS-150807-162054008
Gatwick planes SUS-150807-162054008

The construction of a second runway at Gatwick Airport might be on the back burner, but campaigners warn an international air transport strategy could already be making life harder for families living in East Sussex.

Dominic Nevill from Crowborough, chairman of East Sussex Communities for the Control of Air Noise (ESCCAN) explained: “We believe it is increasingly clear that aircraft coming into Gatwick are using a ‘superhighway in the sky.’ This is a single line of approach - an aerial motorway - where all incoming aircraft are directed along the same flightpath.

“They cross the coast near Bexhill, overfly villages east of Hailsham, the centre of Heathfield, Mayfield, the Ashdown Forest and Crowborough. It’s insane that the Ashdown Forest appears to be protected from development by an EU habitat directive aimed at cutting pollution while aircraft are being routed over the AONB.

“Kent County Council initially supported the expansion of Gatwick but its leader, Paul Carter changed direction when he realised what was happening in the air. As a result the Council publicly changed its stance and opposed the second runway.”

He said local people noticed the changes last summer and complained, but the CAA said no new flight path had been created. We say they are hiding behind generalities.”

Fellow campaigners say thousands of people are affected for more than ten hours a day and 90 per cent of all incoming flights now cross Crowborough with 25 percent being below 4,000 feet. “We are 600 feet higher than Gatwick so that means they are coming over the Forest at not much more than 3,000 feet.” And he cites 300,000 incoming flights a year and says it’s vital the multi-swathe system - where planes come in over the countryside on different paths - should be retained.

The situation is also bad in West Sussex where take-off flight paths appear to have been concentrated and planes fail to climb sharply (as they do out of some European airports) to minimise noise.

A National Air Traffic Control spokesman described the system as Point Merge. He said: “In October NATS decided to postpone the submission of proposed high level network changes (above 4,000ft) relating to Gatwick Airport, including the introduction of Point Merge, which was part of Phase 1 of the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP).”

But Dominic Nevill says a single flight path ‘is still being considered and is on the cards’ adding changes this major should be subject to a full public consultation.

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