New flight paths – compensation

GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) is working to try to obtain financial compensation for those affected by increased aircraft noise, from new flight paths or from newly concentrated flight paths.

June 2014

GACC is writing to a number of Members of Parliament asking them to promote a change in the law to provide compensation for residents adversely affected by new flight paths.

This could best be achieved by an amendment to the Land Compensation Act 1973. This Act provides full compensation for people whose houses are devalued by the building of a new motorway or other new road. It is necessary for the householder to prove, with a surveyor’s report, that their house has lost value compared to other similar, but unaffected, properties. The Act is well tried and has worked well.

The Act also applies to the building of new runways but does not apply to new flight paths based on existing runways.

At Gatwick there are four developments which make a change in the law urgent.

1. Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) have recently introduced a trial route (ADNID) over the villages of Rusper, Warnham and Slinfold which has caused immense anger. Residents have found their long established tranquillity shattered and their houses devalued. The loss of property value means that people feel trapped and unable to move, and this in turn aggravates their annoyance.

2. GAL and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) have also introduced, with minimal consultation, new concentrated take-off routes. While the concentration of the flight paths benefits many (and is in accord with Government policy of reducing the number of people affected by aircraft noise), it causes misery and loss of property values for the few unlucky enough to find themselves under a new ‘super-highway in the sky’.

3. GAL are currently consulting on a number of new flight paths (including variations in the ADNID route) designed to increase the capacity of the airport.

4. NATS are proposing to introduce a new ‘point merge’ procedure for arriving aircraft. Aircraft will be directed to a single point and thence on concentrated flight paths to join the glide path leading to the airport. People unfortunate enough to find themselves under the merge point or under the concentrated approach paths are also likely to experience considerable disturbance, misery and loss of property value.

These changes come on top of a gradual extension over the past decade or so of the glide path for arriving aircraft which has caused, and is causing, great anger among residents, especially in the area from Lingfield to Tonbridge.

Under the Land Compensation Act, compensation is paid by the body responsible for the development: in the case of new roads by the Highways Agency. If the Act were amended to include new flight paths, implemented by GAL (which has responsibility for flight paths under 4,000 feet), the compensation would be paid by the airport. For new flight paths above 4,000 (eg the point-merge system) compensation would be paid by NATs (ie by the airlines which own NATS). This would be in line with standard economic theory that where many benefit (in the case of Gatwick some 36 million air passengers a year) but a few suffer, the many should compensate the few.

It would also be in line with the Air Policy Framework White Paper March 2013 which states (paragraph 3.39): Where airport operators are considering developments which result in an increase in noise, they should review their compensation schemes to ensure that they offer appropriate compensation to those potentially affected.

Admittedly the White Paper goes on to refer, as a minimum, to acoustic insulation. But acoustic insulation does nothing to recompense for loss of property value or the ability to enjoy peace out of doors or with open windows.

GACC recognises that it will not be easy to achieve a change in the law quickly. Shortage of Parliamentary time is always used as an excuse to defer action. A Private Member’s Bill is an uncertain method. We are asking our local Members to advise on the best way forward.

Any amendment should be retrospective to an appropriate date.

If it is not possible to amend the law in this Parliament, we would hope that this point can be included in the manifesto of each of the main Parties.

New flight paths are also due to be introduced at Stansted and Heathrow. We have support from our colleagues there, and also from the Aviation Environment Federation.

GACC realises that compensation is always a second best: best would be to have no adverse change. But if change becomes inevitable, compensation becomes essential. That is how a civilised society should work.

June 2014