Gatwick Campaigners slam airport’s revised noise action plan

24.5.2010 (Redhill, Reigate and Horley Life)

Campaigners have attacked the revised Gatwick Airport Noise Action Plan as "flawed"
and the result of a

consultation which was "largely a sham."   Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign
(GACC) says the current situation on the draft Gatwick Noise Action Plan (NAP)
is "extremely unsatisfactory."

The Charlwood-based group says that facts it has unearthed as a result of a Freedom
of Information request reveal that, among other things, the revised draft plan
submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) by the airport last December,
after consultation with the public, only included a few changes from the original
draft, and so the consultation was "largely a sham."

GACC added the results of the consultation, summarised   by a firm of consultants
employed by the airport and

presented to the DfT, "are totally mangled and unrecognisable."

And the group said the consultation process had not been "open and transparent."

GACC, a voluntary association founded in 1968, has as its goals a steady reduction
in noise and pollution from

the airport, and other key aims including the protection of the environment around
Gatwick, and keeping the

airport within its present boundaries.   It is the main environmental body concerned
with Gatwick and has as members about 100 borough, district and parish councils,
covering about a 20-mile radius from the airport.

The NAP was created to comply with an EU environmental noise directive and was
released in draft form for the first time last summer.   It set out more than 50
actions to minimise noise near Gatwick and underneath flight paths, including
giving priority to quieter planes, engaging more with affected communities, and
possibly creating steeper approach paths that would reduce noise as planes land.

In its report on the revised draft NAP produced by Gatwick Airport and submitted
to the Government last December, GACC called for more effective action and less
secrecy.     The group said the revised draft was only obtained after

considerable delay by means of a Freedom of Information request.

GACC said its preliminary report revealed a lack of Government action, little
response to the consultation exercise and an inadequate summary of consultation

John Byng, one of the GACC vice chairmen, said "The recent ash events have reminded
us of the peace and

quiet we miss, and of the importance of doing everything possible to reduce noise."

He said: "The latest draft Gatwick Noise Action Plan falls well short and we
shall press the Government to take

further action so that we can look forward to less noise, not more. "There is
considerable scope for quieter aircraft

and better management to reduce the suffering of local residents."

Regarding openness and transparency, GACC stated in its report: " Both Gatwick
Airport and the DfT refused to

publish the revised action plan, and it was therefore necessary to lodge a Freedom
of Information request.

"Unlike the normal governmental consultation procedure, the responses have not
been made available for public

inspection, so there is no way of checking whether the (mangled) summary is correct.
"The Department is

refusing to accept any further representations, and is treating the issue as
a private matter to be dealt with

between themselves and the airport."

GACC added: "People whose lives are made a misery by noise are to have no say
in the result." The group highlighted "two welcome additions in the revised version"
of the NAP – both of which it proposed – on implementing recommendations on a
steeper approach path to Gatwick after feasibility studies were carried out, and
adopting, where applicable and appropriate, the findings of research on the effects
of noise on health outlined by the World Health Organisation.

But elsewhere, GACC said wording had been changed to neuter GACC proposals.    
GACC said the Freedom of Information reply showed that the revised NAP fails to
address the issue of concentration of arrival flight paths, that "a number of
constructive proposals" from GACC for alleviating the problem had been ignored,
and that there had been a failure to recognise "the intense misery, distress and
injustice caused to those under the flight paths."

"The fundamental flaw in the whole noise action plan is that there is no commitment
to reduce the total noise

caused by the airport," the group concluded.

A spokesman for Gatwick Airport was not available for comment.