New Forest flight path plan attacked

(10.8.2007   Telegraph)

Anger is growing over a controversial plan to increase airspace over some of
southern England’s finest countryside.   Critics say the creation of new air corridors
to ease flight congestion to the west of London will inevitably mean more aircraft
overhead.   The North Wessex Downs and the Cotswolds – both designated Areas of
Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – and the New Forest National Park will all
be affected if the expansion plan is approved.

A statutory three-month consultation period designed to give the people affected
by the proposed airspace changes time to express their views ended on August 10.    
But opponents say the majority of people don’t even know about the plans.   “The
first they will know about is when they see and hear the planes overhead,” said

A plea by a local Tory MP Sir George Young to have the consultation period extended
was turned down.   The National Air Traffic Services (NATS) which provides air
traffic control services, says it needs an increase in airspace to reduce the
level of delays in flights.

It wants to create an extra “lane” of air traffic for flights coming in and out
of Bournemouth and Southampton airports so that flights going north will take
a different route to those going south.

NATS also wants to lower the height at which aircraft fly over Andover crossing
the Wessex Downs and the New Forest to 6.500-feet.   Currently used mainly by the
military, it would also allow commercial night flights between 5.30pm and 9.30am..

” It will allow us to simplify complex and congested airspace over Newbury in
Berkshire of east-west traffic to the London airports and north-south up and down
the country.   At the same time it will enhance safety by allowing the air traffic
controllers greater scope in the way they manage the airspace,” said a NATS spokeswoman.

Although the changes are not specifically to increase the number of flights,
opponents of the scheme claim the extra capacity is almost certainly linked to
the proposed expansions of Bournemouth and Southampton airports.

Opposition to the expansion has been mounting but it may have come too late to
have any effect on whether the plans are approved.