Proposed flight paths would have significant impact on Biggleswade area, warns councillor

Suggested new arrival routes for Luton Airport will have a major impact on towns and villages in Chronicle country, a councillor has warned.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 9:50 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 10:36 am

Central Bedfordshire Independent councillor Adam Zerny (Potton) is encouraging residents to have their say in the public consultation on the planned new flight paths, many of which will fly right over the area.

Cllr Zerny pointed out that existing flight paths head over open countryside south of Biggleswade and that 70% of flights are currently westerly meaning the flight paths are even further away.

But changes are in the offing because currently planes usually "stack" prior to entering their final approach to the airport, while the pilots wait for a slot to land.

Arrival routes set to change for Luton Airport

Currently there are two existing stacks for Luton and Stansted, one near Royston and the other to the east close to Sudbury. Luton Airport says these stacks are "unsustainable" although Cllr Zerny says this phrase has not been defined and no evidence produced as to what might happen if things are left as they are.

He adds that although airports say these stacks are used in "busy times", this is not usually defined and says residents of the existing stack areas have told him that prior to COVID "all times are busy times".

Before making changes to flight paths, Luton is obliged to consult, in conjunction with National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS).

The consultation offers two options for flights from the east and two for those from the west. Cllr Zerny says neither are good for Chronicle country, with noise the key concern.

Dotted lines show where the changes may take place

At present 30% of flights approach from the west (these are referred to as easterly in the documentation as it refers to the wind direction): Option 1 - Stack at St Neots, flies over towns such as Potton, Sandy, Biggleswade and towards Arlesey. Option 2 - Stack at St Neots, flies over towns such as Potton, Biggleswade and towards Shefford.

70% of flights approach from the east (these are referred to as westerly in the documentation as again, it refers to the wind direction): Option 1 - Stack at St Neots, broad distributed flight path covering towns like Potton, Sandy, Biggleswade, Arlesey, Letchworth and Stevenage. Option 2 - Stack at St Neots, flies over Potton, half of Biggleswade, Arlesey and Stevenage.

Cllr Zerny said: "I am strongly opposed to these changes and urge people to oppose to them in the consultation. The timing also looks very odd. Given where we are with COVID, it is clearly going to be a very long time before airports are back to any degree of normality and more than 20 airlines have gone out of business in the last 8 months."

Lee Boulton, from NATS, said: “The number of flights into Luton Airport has increased significantly in recent years and our controllers have had to delay aircraft and manually manage each flight to ensure safety.

Option 1 Westerly flights

"This proposal is all about ensuring safety and the consultation is a great opportunity for people to give us their feedback and help shape the proposed options, so that the airspace around the airport operates more effectively into the future.”

To comply with COVID-19 health and safety restrictions, representatives from the airport and NATS will host a number of webinars and virtual meetings throughout the consultation period to present the details of the proposal to local communities, airspace users, businesses and MPs.

These will replace traditional “town hall” meetings and drop-in events and provide a platform for participants to put questions to subject matter experts. A virtual exhibition will offer everyone access to all the information they need to make an informed decision and provide feedback that will help determine the final proposal.

Neil Thompson, operations director at Luton Airport, added: “Any airspace change can have impacts for a wide variety of people. Local communities may be affected by noise, airlines will see a change to the routes that they fly and local airspace users may see changes too.

Option 2 Westerly flights

"That’s why over the last 18 months we've been working hard with NATS, local community representatives, airlines and others to help develop the final proposals."

Fill in their survey here: full details of the consultation can be found here: c consultation started on Monday and runs until February 5, 2021. Luton Airport plans to announce the final changes in June 2021 and implement them by February 2022.

What do you think about the proposals? Email [email protected]

Option 2 Easterly flights
Option 1 Easterly flights