Flight path delay: Cambs villages get reprieve

CONTROVERSIAL plans to fly aircraft across the skies of Huntingdonshire have been shelved because of low passenger numbers.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to queue aircraft in the skies above Huntingdonshire have been shelved because of low passenger numbers.

The National Air Traffic Service (NATS) had wanted to allow planes waiting to land at Luton Airport to enter a stacking system above Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire.

However, the urgent need for change to the flight paths to Luton and Stansted airports, sparked by ever-growing passenger numbers in 2007, disappeared when the number of people on flights failed to escalate as predicted.

A four-month consultation into the plans in 2008 produced more than 15,000 responses, many objecting to the moving of Luton and Stansted’s holds. Following the consultation NATs said it was looking at revising the proposals and would publish those in 2009. However, the work was delayed and now the plans have been put on the back burner and will become part of a wider review in 2013/14.

Alex Bristol, NATs development and investment director, said the review would still go ahead.

“While the downturn in air traffic means we can take longer to ensure we have the best solution, we have always been clear that doing nothing is not a long term option,” he said.

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His colleagues will now review a wider area of airspace over southern England for 2013/2014, when passenger levels are expected to return to pre-recession highs. In particular, NATS says it wants to keep planes higher in the skies for longer on more direct routes so they can save fuel and have less of an environmental impact.

That could also mean less noise for people on the ground, Mr Bristol said.

He added: “This is a very large and complex area of airspace with many interactions.

“As traffic levels pick up, changes will be necessary to ensure continued safety and reduced delay.

“The work we have done so far, and the feedback we have from the 2008 consultation, will be very much part of our plans.”