Fears of air 'sewers'

PUBLISHED: 11:03 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010

COUNTRYSIDE around a village will be blighted and polluted under new air travel plans, according to a concerned district councillor. Cllr Judy Shardlow, who represents Wheathampstead, fears that the village will suffer as a result of National Air Traffic

COUNTRYSIDE around a village will be blighted and polluted under new air travel plans, according to a concerned district councillor.

Cllr Judy Shardlow, who represents Wheathampstead, fears that the village will suffer as a result of National Air Traffic Services (NATS) proposals to change aircraft stacking systems and departure flight paths.

The aim is to remove flight paths from over built-up areas and direct them over the countryside.

She maintains the changes will destroy the tranquillity of the countryside around Wheathampstead and increase noise intensity in the Green Belt.

Cllr Shardlow believes that the proposals to re-route flights on the "easterly departures to the south west" path will mean that the current 3km-wide flight path which goes over parts of Wheathampstead, Harpenden and Redbourn will swing further south and will "funnel" around Wheathampstead.

As well as plans to re-route flight paths, new "sat nav" technology will be used to concentrate planes closer to an exact flight path, creating what NATS itself calls a "noise sewer".

Cllr Shardlow said: "What NATS are proposing is to concentrate noise, CO2 emissions and pollution along a thin red line, using the argument that less people will be affected by noise.

"Yet the countryside around Wheathampstead, enjoyed by so many people in this district, will be blighted by departing aircraft thundering overhead and polluted by engine emissions."

She added: "At the moment we all share some of the noise burden of living closer to Luton Airport and it should stay that way. Most people can live with some level of aircraft noise provided it is not too loud and continual. Yet this proposal will literally turn some of the most attractive areas of Green Belt into airborne sewers."

Only 13 weeks has been given to respond to the NATS consultation as Cllr Shardlow pointed out at last week's meeting of St Albans Cabinet.

St Albans MP, Anne Main, also believes that some villages just outside her constituency to the north such as Wheathampstead could feel they are losing out under the proposals.

She urged residents to use the postcode facility on the NATS website to see whether their home would be affected by any changes to the routes.

Mrs Main admitted the documents surrounding the exercise were very complex and her constituents were concerned about the implications of changes to the flight paths.

But her impression after meeting with Jane Johnston, head of external communications at NATS, was that noise preferential routes might be moved even further away from the built-up areas of St Albans.

She said: "From the documents I have seen, it seems that flights from Luton, which currently pass over the north side of St Albans, will be rerouted. This may slightly benefit Sandridge residents, however all paths, both proposed and current, are at a quite significant height by the time they reach St Albans."

She was also reassured that there were no plans to create stacking movements over St Albans.

More information and written responses to the consultation can be made via the NATS consultation website www.consultation.nats.co.uk section F: Chilterns and Luton Area.

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Recently we, as a family (minus two of the kids), visited The Lodge RSPB reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. I had never been before, which is perhaps amiss of me as a birdwatcher as it is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB and only 45 minutes drive from home.

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