Hope for rethink over flight paths

Saturday, 1 November, 2008

An MP has said he is hopeful of securing a rethink over plans to move flight paths, following talks with a Government minister.

Tim Yeo, MP for Suffolk South, and David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, met Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick on Monday to push the case for keeping aircraft away from quiet rural areas.

Residents in Lavenham and the surrounding area have objected to plans put forward by Nats- formerly the National Air Traffic Service- to move flight paths and holding stacks for planes queueing to land at Stansted, over their villages.

Mr Yeo, who is backing their campaign, said the two MPs had asked the Government to rethink its guidance to Nats, which specifies aircraft should be routed across less densely populated areas- a move that protesters say will ruin the tranquility of the Suffolk countryside.

"We have urged the Government to alter that guidance," he said. "We have also pressed the case for stacking over the sea and raised the concern that Nats is part-owned by the airline industry and is trying to serve the needs of aviation," he said.

"I'm pleased that we had a chance to put directly to the minister the very strong feelings on the matter. We left him in no doubt at all as to the hostility that there is to the proposed changes."

Although Mr Fitzpatrick made no commitments during the meeting, Mr Yeo said he felt the minister had genuinely listened to the concerns.

"I think they are aware of the strength of local resistance and I think they will have to look at it again, but it will take some time- it could be months rather than weeks," he said.

"There's been a very well organised campaign and I think it's too early to gauge whether it's going to succeed- but I certainly think there's hope."