“Plane Justice” legal claim forces CAA to concede Route 4 decision was wrong on all grounds
The small local group at Gatwick, Plane Justice, has legal battle on the location of Route, Route 4. The CAA has conceded Plane Justice’s judicial review claim on all grounds. Its April 2017 decision to make the current Gatwick departure Route 4 permanent will be quashed by the High Court, following the signing of a consent order by the parties. The CAA was due to be in Court on 20th February for a full 2 day hearing, but having not come up with any detailed grounds of defence to the Plane Justice claim, they have admitted their decision was wrong and conceded on all the grounds of claim. The CAA agreed they had been wrong in ignoring existing patterns of traffic and the value of leaving the Route in its 2012 location, and they had been wrong in not requiring Gatwick to consult on the design of the Route that was introduced in May 2016. They also concede they were also wrong in saying that magnetic drift was a sufficient reason to move the Route. The location of Route 4 has been highly contentious for over 3 years, as it now gets concentrated rather than filling the width of the NPR swathe, as it did before the advent of PrNav for aircraft. This has meant either one community, or another, in an area of several miles width, suffer much worse plane noise. Another group, Plane Wrong, earlier argued for the route to be moved away from them.
CAA concede Route 4 decision was wrong on all grounds
19.1.2018 (Plane Justice press release)
CAA must take its decision again, giving proper consideration to maintaining 2012 flight pattern
In a dramatic turn of events, the Civil Aviation Authority has conceded Plane Justice’s judicial review claim on all grounds, and its April 2017 decision making the current Gatwick departure Route 4 permanent will be quashed by the High Court following the signing of a consent order by the parties.
The CAA was due to be in Court on 20th February for a full 2 day hearing, but having not come up with any detailed grounds of defence to our claim, they have now admitted their decision was wrong and conceded on all the grounds of claim.
The CAA have conceded in the consent order:
- that they were WRONG to ignore existing patterns of traffic and the value of leaving the Route in its 2012 location,
- WRONG because they failed to require that Gatwick consult on the design of the Route that was introduced in May 2016,
- they concede they were also WRONG in saying that magnetic drift was a sufficient reason to move the Route, as their quashed decision had asserted.
The CAA have been duly called to account, and the CAA and Gatwick are flying a Route based on a decision that has now been pronounced unlawful.
Plane Justice Acting Chairman Chris Quinlan said:
“Residents have now had confirmed what they always knew – that they’ve been victims of a wrong and now discredited decision, and one not even made with due consultation.
It is now up to the CAA and Gatwick to begin the process of redesigning Route 4. There will need to be a new satellite-based design taking due account of the above findings recorded in the Order, including giving full effect to the value of maintaining the 2012 flight pattern.
Trust of the decision makers has taken a battering, after logic, ethics, dialogue, campaigning and complaints failed to move them earlier, leaving legal action as the reluctant last resort.
This must mark the day the decision makers start to do the right thing by these residents – beginning with honouring the undertaking the CAA made to GATCOM in 2013, and taking the purely interim measure of returning Route 4 in the shortest practical time to the conventional navigation Route that pre-dated the CAA’s unlawful 7th April decision;
The intended effect of this would be to return the Route on a conventional navigation basis to its pre-2013 position, pending implementation of a new satellite-based route design.
This is exactly the situation the CAA itself envisaged should happen, in its 2015 ‘Post implementation Review’, if the RNAV version of Route 4 failed to achieve its original stated aim. This will give hard-pressed communities the breathing space they deserve, while Gatwick and the CAA meanwhile set in motion the necessary procedures and consultation on a new satellite-based design for Route 4 which honours the terms of the Order conceding our claim.
These long-suffering communities cannot be expected to endure yet another summer with Gatwick flying a Route derived from an unlawful decision.”
Meanwhile Plane Justice has put the CAA on notice that it reserves its rights to challenge any further decision they may take that does not give full effect to the value of maintaining the 2012 flight pattern.
– ends –
For further information, please contact Plane Justice:
Notes to editors
- Route 4 is a departure route from Gatwick Airport. The Route was altered in May 2016 and currently overflies (or in some cases vectors over) new populations to the North of the airport in Newdigate, Capel, Leigh, Norwood Hill, Sidlow, Salfords, Outwood and Horley.
- Judicial review (JR) is where a Court reviews a decision made by a governmental or public/regulatory body, in this case the CAA, and decides whether it has been made correctly and lawfully.
- The consent order signed by the parties agrees that the CAA’s 7th April 2017 decision should be nullified, both with respect to the current RNAV Route 4, and with respect to the correction for magnetic drift to the historical conventional navigation route that the CAA ordered Gatwick to make. This will now be sealed by the Court.
- Conventional navigation routes use ground based beacons rather than sat-nav for navigation and are still available for use at Gatwick. Many airports like Heathrow currently navigate aircraft using conventional navigation almost exclusively.
Plane Justice Ltd -v- CAA: Gatwick Route 4 Court Case passes its first big test
In the High Court Mrs Justice Lang DBE granted permission for Plane Justice’s Judicial Review case against the Civil Aviation Authority to proceed to a full trial hearing on all grounds.In granting permission, Mrs Justice Lang said Plane Justice’s grounds of claim merited full consideration. Gaining permission to proceed is a vital first step that all JR cases have to go through, and only a minority of JR cases achieve it. Plane Justice is trying to get changes to Gatwick\s Route 4 departure route, which was altered in May 2016 and now overflies (or in some cases vectors over) new populations to the north of the airport in Newdigate, Capel, Leigh, Norwood Hill, Sidlow, Salfords, Outwood and Horley. The route was changed to avoid overflying other areas, and a different group, Plane Wrong, fought hard to get the route change that badly affected them in 2013 altered. Plane Justice wants the route to revert to how it was before 2013. The case is now likely to be listed for a full hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in the new year. Salfords & Sidlow Parish Council, affected by Route 4, has made a substantial donation towards the legal costs, and Plane Justice has to date raised 82% of its budget to fund the High Court action.
CAA confirm Route 4 changes to be permanent – local group calls it the “Route to Misery”
Early in April the CAA approved the current P-RNAV design of Gatwick’s Route 4 (the take off route towards the west, that turns north and heads east). This was altered in 2016 in response to the complaints about the way it has recently been altered. Now, dismissing the outpouring of complaints to the current route “as expected”, the CAA says the route will continue. The CAA has concluded that modified Route 4 “has delivered the aim of the airspace change to an acceptable standard and this change will now be made permanent.” They recognise that this has an impact on communities and has asked Gatwick to “investigate the potential of meaningful respite” by “alternating or switching a proportion of Route 4 departures onto another route.” Local group, Plane Justice, deeply opposed to the current Route 4, comments that the CAA appears indifferent to the misery of the people who wrote in complaining about the route. They are angry that the complaints are considered just “AS EXPECTED” rather than real expressions of genuine concern and annoyance. The group has a Route 4 Legacy Pledge, which calls on the CAA to revisit its decision and return Route 4 to the geographical position and dispersion pattern it occupied before 2013 (the ‘legacy Route’). They are asking people to sign up to this.
6 month trial of change to Gatwick Route 4 ends, with widespread criticism and opposition
Route 4 from Gatwick (taking off towards the west, curving north and then going east) was changed in 2013 to fly slightly further to the north. This caused huge upset and opposition from those newly, and intensely, overflown. Finally in May 2016, the route was changed to be further south, but instead of relatively spread out across the NPR, it is concentrated. This has caused further upset and opposition from those now finding they have far worse noise than before. This changed route was “amended” (not a trial, technically) for 6 months, and that ended on 26th November. However, the altered route will continue for another 3 months, while the CAA evaluates their feedback on how the route has performed. The CAA will in due course produce their PIR (Post Implementation Review) of the changed route. Gatwick had more than 15,000 complaints from the public during the consultation. Some of the towns and villages badly affected by high levels of plane noise include Leigh, Salfords, and Horley. The route involves a very tight turn, and to stay within the 3km wide NPR, planes should not be accelerating too fast (to avoid swinging out too far, and being outside the NPR). People say planes are making more noise, as pilots use flaps in order to make the tight turn, and planes are lower than they need to be. An affected resident said “The planes should be flying a shallower turn with a slightly more northerly trajectory afterwards – just as they did with no significant problems for over 20 years up to 2012.”
Gatwick Route 4 finally re-routed as local MP warns about noise misery dangers of a 2nd runway
On 26th May, the amended Gatwick departure flight path named “Route 4”, taking off towards the west from Gatwick, went in to operation. This route turning north and then east – to fly towards the east. With the implementation of precision-area navigation (PR-NAV) at Gatwick in 2014, changes were made to Route 4 which made it more concentrated, and slightly to the north of the main NPR (Noise Preferential Route). This resulted in thousands of people suffering intense and frequent plane noise, for the first time. The local group, Plane Wrong, was formed to fight the changes. The PIR (Post Implementation Review) by the CAA in 2015 showed that the change to Route 4 was not “compliant” with regulations, and it should revert to how it was before early 2014. However, it has taken a long time for this reversion to actually happen. The route that has now started means the SID (Standard Instrument Departure) turning circle is a little tighter so planes avoid the densely populated urban areas of Reigate and Redhill. It is regrettable that it took so long for an unacceptable flight path, that could be introduced so quickly without warning, could take so long to reverse. Local MP Crispin Blunt warned that the noise situation with a 2nd Gatwick runway would be completely unacceptable, with no noise mitigation measures in prospect.
“Plane Wrong” critical of CAA’s PIR decision to permit new easterly take-off route to continue
The CAA published its long-awaited Post Implementation Review report in early November. Gatwick is required by the CAA to change one westerly departure route (Route 4) that affects people in many villages to the South of Dorking and across to Reigate and Redhill. This has to revert back to being within the NPR (noise preferential route) as before. Local group, Plane Wrong, set up in response to the noise problems caused, says it welcomes the decision and wants this to be implemented rapidly so that residents do not have to suffer the noise for another summer. Plane Wrong is, however, dismayed at the CAA decision in respect of Route 3, which is not to be changed despite the fact that many more people are significantly affected by the change. This appears to have been entirely ignored. Plane Wrong has considerable doubts about some of the methodologies employed by the CAA to reach both these decisions. On the change to Route 4, Plane Wrong says the changes should be completed quickly, though the CAA has to test the change in simulators for Boeing and Airbus. They do not yet know when this work will take place. There is also a 2 month period that has to elapse after that, and there is no indication yet of when this will end.