Gatwick Obviously Not.org
Our Mission Statement
Full dispersal • • • Maximum altitude • • • Continuous Descent
Flight Paths - A Debate in Parliament
"I make a simple request that Her Majesty's Government should recognise that when motorways are built, they are debated, and when railways are built, they are considered and assessed, so when motorways in the sky are placed over people's homes, the planning requirements should be no different."
Tom Tugendhat MP
Westminster Hall Debate, Wednesday 20th April 2016
These words closed Tom's 20-minute opening speech last Wednesday in the important Debate he had secured in Parliament, namely 'The effect of aircraft noise on local communities'.
I was there and can advise his speech was very well-informed, direct and extremely well received (according to my inbox).
Such was the interest in this Debate in Westminster Hall that he was surrounded by influential MPs such as Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities, Sir Nicholas Soames, Nusrat Ghani and Jeremy Quin.
The Minister for Aviation, Robert Goodwill was present and responded to the Debate.
Here is Tom's summary at the end of the Debate, after the Minister had responded to the main discussion:
"I thank the Minister for his words. I am grateful for the support that I have received from throughout the House today…They have shown that this issue covers every party in every part of our great kingdom.
"If I am honest, I am little disappointed that we have not yet had a better answer on what the words 'significantly affected' mean, and that we have not had what I hoped we would have - a promise that the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS will take into account the communities on the ground when they are looking at the future airspace strategy. I think that is absolutely essential for all communities across our country.
"In the closing few moments, I would like to pay a small tribute to Gatwick Obviously Not, a campaign group in my constituency that has worked tirelessly and fought very hard not only for communities in our area, but - as I hope this debate has recognised - for communities across our country that are suffering. Aviation noise recognises no boundaries of constituency, or indeed of town, borough or county.
"Sadly, this issue will come back again and again, because…this is not about Gatwick or Heathrow. It is about the rights of citizens in our great country to be treated fairly and with justice when some of the planning decisions that are most important to them are taken. Were a motorway to be bulldozed through their back garden or a railway to be bulldozed under their land, they would have a right to be consulted. When the same is done in the air - when a motorway is put over their homes, their lives are disrupted, their sleep is interrupted and their children fail to get to school on time because they are tired - they get no say. That is surely wrong. I welcome the Minister beginning to answer that, and I know that this is a fight we will take forward."
I would like to thank Tom for his reference to this campaign team which, of course, includes you. He is absolutely right; we are fighting for those well beyond our immediate area.
Indeed the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Burnett said in his granting of Permission for our Judicial Review to go to the final, Substantive Court that he reserved it for the Court of Appeal as it "is desirable to obtain an authoritative ruling on the meaning of the relevant provisions, which govern similar arrangements at airports other than Gatwick"
I have extracted some excerpts below but if you have time I do urge you to read or watch Tom's words and the interventions in full.
You will be wondering where our advice is to you about your response to the Arrivals Review.
We are taking Tom's words into account but also working with virtually all other groups around Gatwick to co-ordinate that guidance. Rest assured that we will be back to you in good time before the mid-May deadline.
Together we are far, far stronger.
Gatwick Obviously Not
Tom's speech starts the recording: 09.30.00 - 09.49.40
Minister's Response: 10.47.53 - 10.57.42
Tom's closing address: 10.57.42 - 11.00.00
(These timings sometimes appear to move back by 15 minutes exactly in the recording)
Tom Tugendhat MP - opening speech [extracts]
"It [the aviation industry] is a blessing to many but, as so often in the Kentish sky, behind the silver lining there is a cloud, because although airlines carry passengers away to other places, they condemn the citizens beneath these aerial motorways to lives of misery and the oppression of noise.
…the question for this debate is not whether we should ground all aircraft or close all airports, which would be absurd, but how we manage our airspace as a precious resource for the benefit of everyone.
I am particularly pleased to see many of my parliamentary neighbours here this morning. My right hon. Friends the Members for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) and for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), and my hon. Friends the Members for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) and for Horsham (Jeremy Quin), are all here, and we have been fighting together on many of these campaigns.
I would like him [the Aviation Minister, Robert Goodwill] to clarify the position of Her Majesty's Government on the term "significantly affected." That vague term has caused difficulty for airports and agencies in designing flightpaths that cause the least disturbance. Secondly, I would like the outdated Environmental Protection Act 1990 to be refreshed so that aircraft noise is regulated in the same way as other disturbances, taking into account ambient noise so that the relative difference, as well as the absolute decibel level, is taken into consideration."
[Intervention by Nick Herbert MP]
"I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I offer my support on the issue of ambient noise, because in rural communities where noise levels are low the concentration of flights that often happens as a result of the new digital navigation technology means that the disruption now being caused from Gatwick can be great. Does that not need to be taken into account when considering flightpaths over areas that already have a high level of ambient noise and would therefore be disrupted less by such concentration?"
[Tom Tugendhat MP]
"My right hon. Friend makes a good point, to which I will return
In my community, near Gatwick airport, the air corridor was changed in 2013. Since then, complaints have increased ninefold, and it is the failure to manage the airspace properly, not the raw numbers, that has caused the problem…"
[Intervention by Sir Nicholas Soames MP]
"… One of aviation's arguments is that the quality of noise is now very different, but the point that he and my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert make about ambient noise is terribly important because, although the technologies are infinitely improved, the noise is still immensely disruptive. It is no good saying that that is just the way it is."
[Tom Tugendhat MP]
"My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The improvement in the quality of aircraft is noticeable, but that is not enough on its own. The change from a rural idyll to an aerial motorway in a few moments can be particularly stark, and never more so than at night. Perhaps the Minister would like to explain why night flights are banned from some airports but not from others, such as Gatwick.
When a road is planned or a railway is considered, all those affected have a voice. It seems that communities are only ignored when it comes to overhead infrastructure…
"This [lack of guidance] is an area where we could and indeed should change things. That is why I ask for clarity from the Government on what reducing the numbers who are 'significantly affected' means. Does it mean sharing the burden so that many are affected but not significantly, or does it mean placing the burden on the narrowest shoulders so that the fewest people are affected, but those who are affected will be severely impacted and their lives transformed? That guidance should be given to our planners. It would be given if they were planners on the ground, and it should be given to planners in the air."
[Intervention by Phillip Lee MP]
"…does my hon. Friend agree that at the heart of this problem, particularly in Bracknell, is the fact that there has been a breakdown in trust in the organisations responsible for the management of air traffic, including over my constituency? In my part of the world, the situation has totally changed in recent years and there was no prior warning of it; indeed, it has taken a great deal of time and persistence to get NATS to admit that it has changed things.
My hon. Friend began his speech by talking about the need for change, and we all accept that there will be an increase in flight traffic over the south-east of England. However, is it not important that all the people involved - the Government and indeed the agencies that are responsible - begin telling the truth in advance, so that we can take the public with us?"
[Tom Tugendhat MP]
"My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and indeed the reason I got involved in this fight was because of the sudden change that I saw in the skies over Kent because of what Gatwick had done.
I admit that this is a slight diversion, but the first thing that people did in relation to Gatwick was to deny that they had done anything; they denied that aircraft were changing their flight approaches in any way or that the airspace was being shaped any differently. I would argue that it was that deception that did the most damage. If they had been able to admit early on that there had indeed been a change, that NATS had indeed changed the approach and that Gatwick was indeed trying different things, we could at least have had a conversation. However, when they did it overnight in 2013 and then denied that they had done so, the breakdown in trust was such that even though Gatwick is now leading with the Redeborn and Lake review, which I will come on to, and, I would argue, leading best practice on how an airport should communicate with its neighbours, it will be a good number of years before many of us will have confidence that Gatwick can be a good neighbour.
"That is why, as many people know, I have welcomed many times the review that was carried out by Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake, because they have introduced a change in policy; indeed, their 23 proposals have been put forward in a policy vacuum. It would be wrong to say that those proposals have all been implemented; they certainly have not been, although we hope that 20 of them will be implemented by the end of the year and that we will begin to see the change that we absolutely need in the skies above south-east England. However, it is only through that dialogue, which Redeborn and Lake both strongly recommend, that we will see that change not only embedded but recognised and appreciated. Sadly, if we keep getting the dishonesty - or at least the dissembling - that we have seen, we will not have the level of trust required to build a better community."
On Twitter (@manvplane):
April 24th 2016