Campaigners accusing Gatwick Airport of causing misery for residents of west Kent and East Sussex are celebrating the a minor victory with the delay of a decision on changes to flight paths. The airport has been plagued with complaints about night flights and low-flying aircraft this summer, and despite reassurances that the noise is due to a seasonal increase in planes overhead, Gatwick Airport Ltd has postponed a decision on whether to go ahead with new flight paths until next year. Gatwick will investigate new “respite” options and “community engagement”, and will also postpone the results of both the noise and emissions consultation, completed in August, and its trial of westerly aircraft routes. Both campaigners and MPs have welcomed the announcement although some have questioned the decision to withhold the results of the consultation ahead of the Airport Commission’s final report on a possible second runway, due next year.
Richard Streatfeild, chairman of the High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group, which comprises 11 Town and Parish Councils, said: “We are not saying Gatwick shouldn’t exist, we want it to be a good business but can’t ignore the 30,000 people concerned about business, tourism and children’s health created by aircraft noise. We feel our position is a reasonable one – that is why Southborough Town Council recently joined. The campaign is growing and the deferment is a way for Gatwick to measure that. I have very grave misgivings about the matter of consultation and still think that should be published in order to help the Airports Commission to decide whether this is suitable for a second runway.” He levelled criticism at Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (GATCOM), which was involved in the body which led to the decision to postpone the changes, and said it did not adequately represent the interests of campaigners. “GATCOM doesn’t reflect communities around Gatwick, but the political or business interests of those involved,” he said.
Tonbridge and Malling MP Sir John Stanley said: “I welcome the deferment. It is justified in my view because the Gatwick consultation was very poorly handled. They offered far too little information, given to far too few people, far too late. The information made available was so technical and so obscure it was extremely difficult for people to work out where they were going to be effected and how.”
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark said: “I am very pleased that both Gatwick and NATS (the UK\’s main air navigation service) have agreed with my call to go back to the drawing board with these proposals as they have caused immense worry to my constituents in the west of Tunbridge Wells.”