LETTER: Give us back peace and quiet

Gatwick are due to respond to the Independent Arrivals Review at the end of March and our future is in their hands.

Late 2013 they changed the arrivals flight path and concentration of aircraft which has ruined so many people’s quality of life across East Sussex, Kent and here in West Sussex. From no noticeable aircraft noise what so ever, we often now have screaming Airbuses directly over our heads, minutes apart from 6am through to 12.30 at night and sporadically through the night, when the wind is easterly. This can be as much as 50 per cent of the time in the busy summer months. In winter when it is predominantly westerly it can be absolutely quiet.

The Gatwick Flight Performance Team’s repeated response to enquiries about noise change has been ‘whilst there has been an increase in air traffic operating to and from Gatwick, there has been no change in arrivals routing or in the procedures relating to arriving aircraft’.

This has proved to be untrue on both counts. The Independent Review has identified categorically that there are not extra aircraft movements in and out of Gatwick per day and in fact less than in 2008 when we had no complaints. What is more the joining point (that all aircraft turn at to come in to land) has narrowed its swathe from 5 nautical miles to 2nm (a reduction of nearly 60 per cent) and is now located 3 extra miles further out from the airport. This is a far-reaching shift that was implemented without warning or agreement from the communities affected on the ground, towards the end of 2013.

This has radically changed where the aircraft turn, how concentrated they are as they turn in to land and where the flightpath goes, even 20-30 miles away from Gatwick, on the way to this point. Also with schedules concentrated to demonstrate how Gatwick can handle aircraft in preparation for a second runway, suddenly the stacks became rationalised and intensified both out at Heathfield and here on the edge of Cowfold, affecting Henfield, Hurspierpoint, Plumpton, Wivelsfield etc as 6 aircraft go round 4 times and cut across and underneath at any time of day.

The change in joining point for landing (ILS point) has meant that south of the A272 from Haywards Heath through Cowfold, Coolham, Adversane, Wisborough Green and more, have had their peace shattered where they may have had no problems before 2014.

It was largely done for ‘capacity improvement’ and has proved to make very little difference to landing stability, which was also a stated reason.

The Independent Review was commissioned by Gatwick after pressure from a number of campaign groups including Kent’s Gatwick Obviously Not, taking Gatwick to a Judicial Review (still pending). This Independent Review by Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake has identified that ‘the noise consequences of this 2013 programme, as regards the increased concentration of flights into a narrower swathe on base leg, further to the east and to the west of Gatwick were not adequately considered or understood either by NATS or Gatwick Airport Limited’.

Yet Gatwick still say on their website under FAQ that they ‘can confirm again that there have been no changes to the way in which aircraft are directed or handled on final approach to the airport’. They also say ‘no’, they haven’t ‘already concentrated the flightpaths for arriving aircraft’.

The Review Report was published in January and has put forward good clear recommendations. It reiterates the campaign groups’ policy of ‘fair and equitable dispersal of noise’ (as agreed in the joint letter to Downing Street in March 2015). More precisely it suggests moving the ILS point back to 8nm from the airport (it was 7nm in 2013 and is now 10nm) and widen the swathe to be 8 – 14 nautical miles (6 miles wide not 2 as it has ended up) with measures put in place to ensure that the aircraft are spread out across this new swathe and do not all just take the shortest route. These changes according to the report should ‘go a long way towards restoring the arrivals situation to a level of dispersal seen prior to 2015’ ie 2013 when there were a fraction of the number of complaints.

But will Gatwick implement this and give us our quiet Sussex countryside back? If others have a similar experience to us, the next couple of weeks are the time to write to Sir Roy McNulty, Chairman of Gatwick, and your MP to put pressure to ensure that the recommendations are implemented. There is no legal obligation to make these changes and Gatwick have shown little concern for the communities under its flight paths to date, but surely it is time to put right the damage it has already done and at least restore some of these quiet rural areas of West Sussex and Kent for the benefit of everybody.

JANINE CREAYE

Moatfield Lane, Cowfold

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