War of words takes off over flightpaths

Infinity Haydon Kirby

Splits have emerged among anti-Gatwick campaign groups ahead of the airport’s response to the Arrivals Review at the end of the month.

A war of words between Gatwick Obviously Not (GON) and Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE) has gone public, with each group accusing the other of only looking out for themselves.

The argument concerns whether or not to widen the flightpaths of planes on arrival, a proposal that affects residents living in villages surrounding Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.

An independent review of arrivals was carried out by Bo Redeborn, Principal Director of Air Traffic Management for Euro-control. It followed pressure from several campaign groups set up by residents of Sussex, Surrey and Kent after Gatwick made a decision to narrow the flightpaths in 2013.

This ‘sky superhighway’ narrowed incoming flightpaths from five nautical miles to around two nautical miles. The campaigners argued that this had resulted in high levels of concentrated noise pollution for those living under it. The protest groups are also determined to thwart current proposals to develop a second runway at the airport.

The review recommended ‘thinning out’ approaching planes, which would reduce the noise impact on people living under the flightpath and spread aircraft noise over a wider area.

Writing to members of GON, which represents several local villages, group founder Martin Barraud described the proposal as the ‘first step’ in restoring ‘some tranquillity’ for those affected.

He states that this insistence on a ‘fair and equitable dispersal’ of noise has: ‘Near universal support… across all the campaign groups, east and west.’

But he goes on to accuse ‘one sole group’, CAGNE, of sabotaging the proposals by objecting to the rewidening plan through their own lobbying efforts, which appear to be under consideration by Gatwick Chairman Roy McNulty.

His concerns came after a statement by Mr McNulty in which he said ‘particular consideration’ would be given to GAGNE’s objections to moving the meeting point for easterly arrival aircraft closer to the runway.

Mr Barraud fears that if GAGNE get their way, the full rewidening will not go ahead as Gatwick could use the campaign group’s opposition as an excuse to ignore Redeborn’s recommendation that there should be a six-mile wide flightpath.

He said: “We do not understand why Gatwick has singled out this one objection to the plan when the other ten to 11 groups are all willing to share the pain. It could be that Gatwick is playing games.

“This is about the tens of thousands of people who are affected by noise and it is more important than any one group.”

Sally Pavey, who heads CAGNE, hit back saying: “There is a problem in that the review is being led by groups trying to move noise from them on to others and we do not seek to do that.

“Currently what works for Kent may not be suitable for other areas. It may be all right for Martin and his chums but have they consulted Lingfield or East Grinstead?”

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