Published: 16:00, 24 November 2014
Kent County Council is intending to oppose plans for a second runway at Gatwick Airport in order to protect residents in west Kent from "intolerable" aircraft noise.
A paper published today sets out the position of the council and details how an increase in over-flights and noise experienced by communities in west Kent has risen to unacceptable levels.
It comes just two weeks after a major consultation exercise on the future of air transport was launched by the Airports Commission.
On the drawing board are two proposals for expansion at Heathrow Airport, and one at Gatwick - which will itself cost an estimated £9.3 billion, £2 billion more than predicted.
KCC said it will call on Gatwick Airport to put in place operational procedures to provide respite for those areas that experience continuing over-flights day and night.
The matter will be discussed by officers at a cabinet meeting next week, where a recommendation has been put forward for KCC to oppose "a second runway at Gatwick Airport, oppose the increase in overflights across west Kent as a result of airspace changes, and support a reduction a reduction in the number of night flights."
Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter said:“The noise impacts on west Kent from Gatwick’s current single runway configuration are already unacceptable and a potential doubling of these impacts with a second runway would be intolerable.
“The National Air Traffic control service has started to implement changes in flight paths, which has brought to our attention two things – a concentration of flight paths over west Kent; and that the number of night flights at Gatwick during the summer period is three and half times those coming in and out of Heathrow, which is a massive issue.
“This change in flight paths has been intolerable for a significant number of residents in that area and brought us to the conclusion that if they are going to pursue this policy in line with the EU Single European Sky initiatives, expansion of this airport and expansion of night flights must not happen.“
Affected residents have reported that overflights have recently risen from 10 – 20 flights-a-day to a maximum of 150.
Mr Carter added: "It is quite clear that residents in west Kent are already suffering from significant levels of disturbance as a result of increased air traffic over the last few years and the recent changes in flight paths.
“We want Gatwick to provide respite for these residents by varying flight paths – and have met with the airport’s chief executive to discuss this.
"We want the NATS air traffic control service to re-design the airspace to include the use of multiple arrival and departure routes, to provide predictable, rotating respite, and spread the burden of over-flight more equitably between communities.
“The current number of permitted night flights is simply unacceptable and has resulted in a massive increase in the number of complaints from residents whose quality of life has been disrupted.
"It is quite clear that residents in west Kent are already suffering from significant levels of disturbance as a result of increased air traffic over the last few years and the recent changes in flight paths" - Paul Carter...
“We want the Department for Transport to reduce the night movement limit at Gatwick to at least a level that is comparable with Heathrow.”
“Lastly, there is a lack of adequate surface transport infrastructure enhancements to cope with the proposed additional demand and little obvious direct economic benefit to Kent.
“While we recognise the need for additional airport capacity in order to maintain UK PLC’s position as a major international hub, we cannot support Gatwick Airport Ltd’s proposal for a second runway.”
Many west Kent residents became concerned that their views were not being considered by the county council. At a Southborough Town Council meeting held in September, KCC member Matthew Balfour was questioned by many before stating the council's support for the second runway was "history".
The council's cabinet committee papers state: "In terms of economic impacts, the West Kent districts of Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and Malling did not even feature in the study area for the economic effects of a second runway in Gatwick Airport Ltd’s consultation on the runway options."
Richard Streatfeild Chair of the High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group said he welcomes the news that KCC will oppose expansion at Gatwick.
He added: "Listening to the leader of KCC one could tell that the impact of hundreds if not thousands of letters and emails that the council had received from individuals, Parish and Town Councils as well as protest groups were key to their change of heart.
"They have heeded the reasonable arguments of reasonable people."