In a letter seen exclusively by the Courier, Greg Clark ( the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities) slams the controversial consultation, which has caused outrage among his constituents, not just for what it proposes but for how the consultation has been managed.
Concerns that Gatwick may be trialling a ‘superhighway’ have been raised by campaigners, although repeatedly denied by the airport, who say that an increase in noise recently is due to a seasonal trend, with more families jetting off on holiday in the summer months. [Note – no mention of vital business connections for the UK economy – just cheap holiday flights, mainly taking money out of the UK].
In the letter, sent yesterday to Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Gatwick Airport Ltd, Mr Clark wrote: “Many of my constituents are affected by flights at Gatwick. While we benefit from the proximity of an international airport in terms of convenience and employment, the impact in terms of noise and disturbance is very significant.
“This disturbance has considerably worsened recently. You have provided me with written assurance that this is not because of any change to routes or landing patterns, but because of increased activity which is partly seasonal and partly to do with a reviving economy, but nevertheless many of my constituents have been disturbed and dismayed by much higher levels of aircraft noise this summer.”
Mr Clark has met with representatives of Gatwick in recent months and held a meeting at the House of Commons on July 14 with Tom Denton, head of corporate responsibility at the airport, and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) manager of air traffic control at Gatwick, Andy Taylor, to raise concerns.
In the letter, he reiterated the points made in the meeting, echoing campaigners’ fears that the consultation has been too vague.
“However, I am afraid to say that the consultation has been unfit for its purpose,” Mr Clark wrote. “The purpose was to have been to gauge reaction to particular precise routes. Yet the exact route has not been disclosed to the public. Instead, a wide swathe has been marked on maps which make it exceedingly difficult to work out what is the exact route proposed.
“I know from discussion with constituents and their councils that they regard the proposals being put forward as too ill defined to comment properly.”
He wrote: “It seems most likely that the proposal is for the centre of the main route to overfly Langton Green, Speldhurst, Rusthall and Bidborough in my constituency. If that is indeed the case, it is totally unacceptable.
“This is an area of substantial residential settlements, which is home to many thousands of people. All of them would have significantly increased levels of noise compared to the current, more dispersed pattern of flight arrivals.”
Referring to Government policy, which states that aircraft routes should cause as little disturbance to residential areas as possible – something disputed by campaigners in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), who say they will suffer disproportionately if that goes ahead, Mr Clark called for a rethink.
“It concerns me that to even have put forward a main route that appears to overfly such known residential areas departs from this principle. I believe it is imperative that this misguided proposal should be sent back to the drawing board.”
He concluded: “A successful Gatwick airport is of great benefit to us all but to ensure that it can be successful in the future, it is crucial that Gatwick treats its neighbours with respect including acting transparently with full disclosure and a concern to minimise the impact on people affected.
“This exercise fails to do that.”
The Gatwick Airport Ltd airspace consultation closes on August 14 (Thursday). To respond to it, visit: http://www.gatwickairport.com/business-community/aircraft-noise/consultations-and-schemes/airspace-consultation/airspace-consultation-documents/