Over the last two weeks I have received a great number of letters and emails from distressed residents in Warnham and Rusper, who tell me that they are being plagued by a constant stream of noisy aircraft taking off from Gatwick towards the west starting at 6am.
Many of them have complained directly to Gatwick Airport, the CAA and NATS but have yet to be satisfied on a number of points.
There has to be some consultation before a trial flight path change can be commenced. This was apparently carried out, although most local residents were completely unaware of the trial before the noise began. However there are several outstanding questions to which I am urgently seeking answers:
Exactly what is being trialled?
Why is any change needed?
On what criteria will the trial be assessed?
Why does it need to continue for six months?
How is it being monitored?
Some local residents are writing to me from addresses which should not be directly under the flight paths as advised by the customer relations department at Gatwick, which suggests that pilots are not adhering to the specified trial route. Anyone who suspects that planes are deviating from the prescribed route should immediately report it to Gatwick, using the email address email@example.com
The fears of local residents, many of whom bought their houses specifically for their peaceful surroundings having researched the Gatwick routes in advance, are that this is simply a prelude to making a more concerted case for a second runway at Gatwick. I have no idea whether this is true.
But there is no doubt at all that the misery currently being experienced by local residents foreshadows what would be a permanent feature of life in the area if a second runway were to be built to the south of the existing one. I have made my opposition to a second Gatwick runway many times in public and private, and am happy to reiterate this now.
The demands it would make on our stretched infrastructure would be, in my view, unsupportable given the amount of development already in the pipeline which is being carefully planned to grow the community in a sustainable way.
Given the strength of the reaction to this trial, which suggests that it is not proving successful, I hope that it will not be necessary for the experiment to last for the full six months. I am in the meantime making urgent enquiries at the highest levels of all the agencies involved and will be visiting Warnham on Sunday to support residents and experience the issue for myself.