St Albans campaigners urge residents to have their say on Luton Airport flight paths
PUBLISHED: 07:44 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:01 12 April 2017
A St Albans campaign group is urging residents to have their say in a consultation over alterations to flight paths, arguing that an increase in planes from Luton Airport flying over the district could be an "environmental catastrophe".
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has asked for views on draft guidance that sets out how the airspace change process will work, including when and how affected communities will be consulted.
Pressure group St Albans Sky has urged residents not to be complacent about the future of airspace above the city, as the group believes that in 2015 Luton Airport and the CAA agreed to move a flight path closer to St Albans without proper consultation with residents.
The alteration of the flight path was postponed from August 2016 to August 2017, but the group is eager to prevent the move from taking place at all.
Pete Hutchison, from St Albans Sky, said: “This new deadline is now looming and complacency from St Albans residents could result in a permanent environmental catastrophe for the city.
“Despite being aware of the current suffering to St Albans residents, Peter Lilley and Harpenden residents groups are now lobbying Luton Airport to alter the problematic revised flight path even further south west to fly nearer to Verulamium Park and over central St Albans.
“If they are successful in getting this path tested it is likely the problem will spread from north St Albans across central St Albans affecting every school, shop and residential home in the city.”
Local communities are urged to have their say on the draft guidance to enhance the way information is provided on proposed changes and how decisions are made in the future.
Through these proposals, the CAA aims to bring greater transparency to the airspace change process, so those affected by changes can have easy access to information.
CAA policy director Tim Johnson said: “We recognise airspace changes can have a significant impact on local communities and other airspace users, and that some of the proposed impacts are understandably unwelcome.
“We want to make sure that during the decision-making process, all those affected by a potential airspace change have access to transparent information and are engaged meaningfully in the process so they can have their say.
“Although not all decisions will be universally welcomed, we want to ensure that everyone involved has confidence in the process and that their concerns have been heard.”
Harpenden MP Peter Lilley said: “The aim is, as far as possible, to keep aircraft away from built up areas (including Sandridge, which is in my constituency but alongside St Albans by a) keeping them in a narrower band over the countryside between built up areas and b) getting them higher sooner.
“It is far from clear that either objective was fully attained in the first year of operating the new flight path - it seemed to veer to one side putting a concentration of planes over some built up areas and not all planes were able to follow the new route.
“But the evaluation is now underway. I shall be very keen to see the results.”
The proposal is available to view at https://consultations.caa.co.uk/policy-development/draft-airspace-design-guidance
The deadline for responses is Friday, June 30.