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Proposed Airspace Changes at Birmingham Airport

Volume 586: debated on Monday 13 October 2014

The Humble Petition of Communities Affected by the Proposed Airspace Changes at Birmingham Airport Limited.

Sheweth,

That we wish to bring to the attention of the Secretary of State that local communities in the vicinity of Birmingham Airport Runway 15 have been significantly affected by the noise and disturbance of aircraft flying departure routes established by Birmingham Airport Ltd (BAL) as part of their air space change proposal. BAL is conducting trial flights in relation to their preferred route options as submitted to the CAA (Options 5 & 6 of BAL’s proposal). During the public consultation process the community raised significant concerns about the loss of the existing Noise Preferential Route, and accurately predicted a significant increase in noise disturbance. Members of the community made detailed submissions to BAL highlighting how a departure that included a turn at altitude could closely replicate the existing Noise Preferential Route and accommodate the extended runway. This is an option that gained a great deal of community support but was rejected by BAL without any meaningful qualification. Additionally the CAA has confirmed that two of the departure routes from Runway 15 are not producing the intended flight paths. We should also like to bring to the Secretary of State’s attention that BAL has no mechanism for gathering community feedback on the trial routes being flown. Given that a technically valid alternative exists, which would substantially accommodate the noise preferential routing, but was not included in BAL’s submission to the CAA, we have no other recourse but to submit this petition to The Honourable House of Commons.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urgently review the proposed flight path changes at Birmingham Airport in view of the sharp increase in noise nuisance to the communities living at the southerly end of the extended runway and the failure of the trial to ensure aircrafts follow the new flight path options accurately and to explore an alternative option which was previously submitted to BAL by the community itself and which would substantially minimise noise nuisance.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mrs Caroline Spelman, Official Report, 16 July 2014; Vol. 584, c. 974.]

[P001370]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport, received 29 September 2014:

The Secretary of State for Transport, having policy responsibility for UK aviation matters, notes the concerns of the local communities which have been affected by the proposed airspace change at Birmingham Airport.

I understand that Birmingham Airport made an application to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last December for an airspace change. It is the CAA’s responsibility, as the UK’s independent airspace regulator, to make the decision on whether to approve the proposal and this is a long-standing process which means that decisions can be made on the basis of their merits.

I wish to assure the local communities around Birmingham Airport that environmental factors are also taken into consideration by the CAA, and my Department’s Air Navigation Guidance to the CAA makes it clear that the mitigation of noise up to 4,000 feet is, after air safety, the key priority which must be met in an airspace change.

In the case of the Birmingham Airport application, when the CAA received it they had some concerns around the predicted environmental impacts of the two options for southbound departure routes (options five and six). Birmingham preferred option five based on their assessed impact, while the CAA considered that option six—which goes closer to Hampton—might have slightly less impact. The CAA then decided to pause the airspace change process while the airport carried out trials of both routes for six months.

I understand that these trials have not been as successful as they might have been. While option five is considered to be working as planned, option six is proving difficult with aircraft being more dispersed than is desirable. The CAA appreciates the importance of rectifying this and has stepped in to offer its technical help to resolve the design of option six. The CAA hopes that this should help to resolve the current issues and enable the trials to continue.

Proposed airspace changes such as at Birmingham are complicated matters and the Government appreciate that residents have valid concerns. I would therefore encourage them to continue to make their views known to the airport, in order for it to reflect them in its final application to the CAA.