Published: 09:00, 01 October 2014
A decision by Gatwick Airport on whether to make changes to flight paths across West Kent, has been put on hold.
A consultation has been taking place, but residents had complained it was too vague about the exact route planes would take.
Any changes have now been shelved until more work's done, including a better consultation with local people.
Residents have already been complaining about an increase in night flights, plane noise and low-flying aircraft and have, until now, not received a satisfying response from the airport.
However, it has been revealed today that Gatwick Airport will delay a decision about whether to go forward with new flight paths until next year.
At a Noise and Track Monitoring Advisory Group (NATMAG) meeting, Gatwick said the changes to flight paths will be delayed until a better understanding of the available options and steps was acquired.
However, the Civil Aviation Authority's Future Airspace Strategy requires that changes to local airspace are implemented by 2020, so today's decision is an extension of the timeline - not a cancellation of the process altogether.
Gatwick said this additional time will allow it to do as much as possible to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on local residents. In a statement it said it will use the time to:
In addition, NATS also agreed to delay implementing any changes to airspace above 4000 feet.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark is delighted by Gatwick's decision to postpone the consultation after he sent a letter in August expressing the concerns of local residents.
He said: “I am very pleased that both Gatwick and NATS have agreed with my call to go back to the drawing board with these proposals as they have caused immense worry to my constituents in the west of Tunbridge Wells.
"Both organisations have confirmed that there will be no change to the flight path until further work, including adequate consultation with the community, has taken place.
"This is a good outcome and I am grateful to Gatwick and NATS for responding to my request and that of the community.”
Gatwick officials have said the local community will also be appropriately engaged on any future proposals to change the use of airspace around Gatwick.
Tom Denton, head of corporate responsibility at Gatwick said: “We are taking more time to review the flight change options we have consulted on in order to further consider all the feedback received before making any airspace change proposals.
"It is clear that airspace change is a sensitive issue for the communities around the airport and we encourage members of the community to engage fully with their GATCOM representative."
"It is clear that airspace change is a sensitive issue for the communities around the airport and we encourage members of the community to engage fully with their GATCOM representative" - Tom Denton...
A spokesman for Gatwick Environmental Campaign Groups, including the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group, Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions and GatwickObviouslynot.org said:
"We wish to engage with the management at Gatwick as they reflect on the feedback that has led to this delay but the results of the public consultation by IPSOS MORI should be published.
"We do not believe that GATCOM has played any part in delivering this delay and we are suspicious that this is only being stopped in order to prevent further bad publicity during the Airports commission consultation on an additional runway.
"If they are truly serious about being a good neighbour they would publish what people really think to help the Commission decide."
Dr John Godfrey, Chair, GATCOM, said: “I am pleased that the important role GATCOM has played in ensuring that the serious concerns of communities were addressed by the airport and NATS has been successful.
"GATCOM provides that vital link between the wider communities around Gatwick and the airport’s management enabling the communities’ voices to be heard. This has resulted in the Committee’s call for detailed consideration of feedback on the London airspace consultation options and the need for further consultation being positively acted upon.”
“GATCOM will continue to ensure that all parties are appropriately engaged and affected communities kept informed of progress and consulted.”
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More by this authorAnnabel Rusbridge-Thomas