NATS, the UK’s leading air navigation service provider, has postponed plans for
further consultation over changes to airspace north of London.   Instead, the proposals
will be incorporated into a wider review of airspace over southern England.

The downturn in air traffic levels since the 2008 consultation on proposed changes
in the Terminal Control North (TCN) area, means there is less urgency on capacity
grounds to achieve the changes. Current forecasts show that air traffic levels
are not expected to return to the peak levels of 2007 until at least 2013/14.

Alex Bristol, Development and Investment Director, said: "We are looking at combining
the necessary changes in the TCN proposal with other projects currently under
way to create a bigger benefit overall.

"We are already working on a wider project involving the airspace over much of
southern England.   The TCN benefits are very much a part of helping us deliver
bigger benefits, albeit on a longer timescale.   These include keeping aircraft
higher for longer on more direct routes, which saves fuel burn and CO2 and means
less noise for people on the ground.

"Whilst the downturn in air traffic means we can take longer to ensure we have
the best solution, we have always been clear that doing nothing is not a long-term

"This is a large and very complex area of airspace with many interactions and
as traffic levels pick up, changes will be necessary to ensure continued safety
and reduce delay. The work we have done so far in TCN – and the feedback we have
from the 2008 consultation – will be very much a part of our revised plans."

Terminal Control North (TCN), along with Terminal Control South (TCS) forms London
Terminal Control (LTC) which in total covers much of southern England, as far
north as Ipswich and west to Bournemouth with Banbury roughly marking the north-west
corner. NATS is reviewing the airspace structure in this total area in light of
available new navigation technologies and new tools under development to improve
air traffic management techniques; our aim is to improve safety in this most complex
area of airspace, to provide additional capacity to meet forecast long term demand
and to meet environmental targets.

This work is still in early stages but is expected to deliver improvements in
the period 2016-2020 with some earlier enabling improvements possible from 2013.
see also
comment by Stop Stansted Expansion


Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has welcomed the announcement this week [13 October]
by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) of a further postponement of its plans
to introduce new flight paths and stacking areas for the Terminal Control North
(TCN) area.


NATS originally intended to introduce the airspace changes in 2008 but the scale
of the public outcry across Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire following
the publication of the proposed new flight paths and stacking areas convinced
NATS that it needed to go back to the drawing board.  


Revised proposals were due to be published in October 2009 but this was subsequently
changed to October 2010.   In announcing this latest postponement NATS has not
given a revised date but hints that it will be at least two to three years before
any new proposals are tabled.


In explaining this latest postponement, NATS pointed to the recent downturn in
air travel, as a result of which there is less urgency on capacity grounds to
achieve the changes.   UK air traffic levels are not expected to return to their
(peak) 2007 levels until at least 2013/14.


When flight paths and stacking areas are moved there are always winners and losers
but the changes proposed by NATS in 2008 would have imposed far more overflying
upon rural communities including many areas which had not previously been affected
by flight paths or stacking areas.   Bishops Stortford and Saffron Walden would
both have been hit hard by proposed new departure routes and, further afield,
two new stacking areas were proposed which would have adversely affected those
living in South Suffolk and South Cambridgeshire.


SSE Campaign Director, Carol Barbone, commented. "We hope that NATS will now
be able to combine its original plans with the wider project it is working on
for a longer term redesign of flight paths and stacking areas over southern England.  
A long term strategic approach is what is needed, not piecemeal chopping and changing
which creates unnecessary blight and uncertainty for people on the ground."