Targets urged to cut Heathrow stacking

Author: By Peter Woodman, Press Association

The Government should also look at limiting noise levels and aircraft numbers
over beauty spots, the report from the House of Commons Transport Committee
said.

MPs were also concerned that the extension of the European Aviation Safety
Agency’s remit could mean a lowering of safety standards.

Entitled the Use of Airspace, the report said some stacking was inevitable but
that excessive stacking such as frequently occurred at Heathrow in west
London had “negative environmental impacts”.

The committee said: “A third runway at Heathrow, if built, offers a real
opportunity to add resilience into the air traffic management system and to
help reduce excessive stacking.

“If a third runway is built at Heathrow, the Government should create a
framework for setting targets to eliminate excessive stacking around the
airport.”

The report said that the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA) should “examine the case for adopting maximum limits on
noise levels and numbers of aircraft permitted per hour over sensitive areas
such as national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty”.

MPs also called on the DfT to issue up-to-date environmental guidance to the
CAA before the end of the year, with the guidance representing current
Government thinking on carbon dioxide and other emissions in relation to
transport decision-making.

The report said: “The Government and CAA must work to ensure that
environmental assessments for airspace-change proposals use reliable
evidence-based criteria.”

The committee also asked for six-monthly reports on the European Aviation
Safety Agency whose remit is now set to include aerodrome safety, air
navigation services and air traffic management.

MPs said they supported the principles of the single European sky initiative
to create a more rational organisation of European airspace.

The report concluded there was “much to commend” in the current management of
UK airspace and that the committee had been impressed by the “technical
competence and professionalism” of the CAA and of air traffic control
company Nats.

MPs rejected suggestions that responsibility for decision-making about
airspace be placed in a different organisation than the CAA.

However, the committee said the CAA should review the techniques it used to
design controlled airspace around airports and improve the way it
communicated with stakeholders.

The CAA should also encourage a choice of options wherever airspace changes
were proposed.

The committee’s chairman Louise Ellman MP said: “If a third runway at Heathrow
Airport is built, then the Government should set targets to cut stacking.

“Tranquillity is a key factor in sensitive areas such as national parks.
Current guidance appears to allow unchecked increases in aviation activity
over these areas. Without some level of constraint, the noise environment in
these areas may degrade progressively as traffic increases. The DfT should
fund exploratory research on how to set useful limits.”

Ralph Smyth, senior transport campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural
England, said: “With ever more people holidaying in England this summer, the
proposal to limit flying over sensitive parts of our countryside such as
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have not come a moment too soon.”

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