On Thursday 26th April Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, met with Baroness Sugg CBE, the Transport Minister with responsibility for aviation, to discuss Gatwick Airport departure Route 4 which overflies his constituency.
Following the successful Judicial Review by the local action group, Plane Justice, which established that Route 4 had been improperly imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Crispin has been corresponding with the Minister, the CAA and Gatwick Airport Limited (GAL), as well as meeting with the local community activist groups. Crispin had requested the meeting with the Minister to discuss new developments in government policy on overflight of communities.
During the meeting, Baroness Sugg assured the Reigate MP that a swift resolution to the Route 4 is an important consideration for her and one that the Department, GAL, and the CAA are working on at pace. Baroness Sugg will visit Gatwick Airport soon and will raise progress on this issue with GAL’s leadership.
The Minister explained that a new model for the process of airspace change, implemented earlier this year, means that new airspace solutions should take approximately 2 years. This includes public consultation and the necessary technical and safety planning.
The option of more immediately returning to the pre-2012 airspace model for Route 4 on a temporary basis, until a new permanent route is agreed, was discussed. However, Department for Transport (DfT) officials confirmed that this is not possible due to the significant changes in both flying technology and airspace usage since then. Furthermore, any changes would have to go through the same assessment process.
Over the coming months, Gatwick Airport, in conjunction with CAA, will be presenting options for the community to review during the consultation process for the new airspace solutions model.
The overall principle of a ‘Dispersal’ flight path model, as opposed to the current preference for a ‘Concentration’ model, was also discussed, and this remains under active consideration by the DfT.
Crispin also raised the issue of compensation, pointing out that when people are affected by noise from road infrastructure projects, there is a compensation process. Department officials acknowledged the issue but confirmed that there is no legal framework unless there is new infrastructure on the ground such as a new runway. In return, Crispin Blunt pointed out that the loss of legal action by the CAA regarding Route 4 was unprecedented and people affected had had this improperly inflicted on them since 2016, noting that it would be at least two more years before this could be put right.
Commenting on the meeting Crispin said: “I will to continue to engage with all the parties in this process and assist the community to have their views represented both before and during the official consultation takes place. I hope we will be able to shape the outcome in the overall best interest of the community and as swiftly as possible. In the absence of an immediate solution for overflown communities, pressing for a speedy permanent redesign and implementation of Route 4 is now the most effective path forward. We will need to work to get community consensus on this as any further delay is unacceptable on those currently under the flight path.”
Baroness Sugg said: “I understand the concerns of local residents about Route 4 and the need for a swift resolution on this issue. We encourage communities and other parties involved to engage proactively to help deliver a sustainable solution.”