The Department for Transport has published its decision document on the first part of its recent consultation on night flights at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted.
The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) is dismayed that although responses to the consultation showed strong and wide opposition to night flights at Gatwick and elsewhere, the Government has decided to extend current night flight numbers and noise limits for a further three years.
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DfT’s decision is a kick in the teeth for all those negatively affected by aircraft noise at night. It entirely ignores the views of local communities and groups representing them.
GACC had called on the government to ban all commercial night flights at all UK airports for a full eight-hour period each night. GACC also argued that if any night flights continued to be allowed, they should be limited to those that were genuinely essential for economic reasons, not leisure flights, and that they should be far more strictly regulated.
GACC chairman Peter Barclay said: “The Government has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to avoid making the changes that many respondents to its consultation strongly endorsed. This beggars belief.
“The pandemic hasn’t changed the reality that night flights have severe impacts on people who live near the airport and under flightpaths. They disturb sleep, cause stress and lead to serious health problems.
“The government has committed to building aviation back better. It could and should have seen the recent reduction in flights as an opportunity for positive change. Instead the Department for Transport continues to neglect its regulatory responsibilities and to see its role as serving the interests of the industry, not overflown communities.”
A Gatwick Airport spokesperson said: “We acknowledge that night time flying is a matter of concern for some local residents, but we also know that many in our local community also benefit from having Gatwick on their doorstep in terms of jobs, business growth and economic prosperity.
“A balance therefore needs to be struck between the economic benefits of night time flying and the needs of local people who are impacted by aircraft noise and we will ensure we operate within the restrictions on night flying set by the Department for Transport.
“We will also introduce a voluntary restriction on the noisiest aircraft operating at night ahead of changes to the governments restrictions in 2022.
“We will also continue to work hard with our airlines to maintain on time performance to prevent flights from operating at night due to delays and to incentivise our airlines to operate the quietest fleet possible during the sensitive night period. In addition, we will continue to support the work of the Noise Management Board, an independent body which brings together local community representatives with industry partners to reduce aircraft noise.”