Hold it there!

ANY hope of enjoying a noise-free stroll in some parts of the Huntingdonshire countryside could be over, an environmentalist believes. Our tranquillity is under attack by road and air, said Gareth Ridewood, chairman of Huntingdonshire CPRE. The affecte

PLANES heading for Luton Airport could circle the skies above south Huntingdonshire every day from next year.

That is the prospect faced by residents if plans for a new holding pattern for the airport are given go-ahead by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The proposals would also allow planes to fly over Huntingdon, St Ives, Godmanchester and surrounding areas on their way to joining the stack. National Air Traffic Service (NATS), which has drawn up the scheme, says increasing levels of air travel mean new stacking’ procedures must be put in place for planes queuing to land.

The planes will circle at a minimum height of 6,000 feet, creating ground noise of up to 60 decibels — the equivalent of a busy office or a normal conversation.

Gareth Ridewood, chairman of the Huntingdonshire branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said: “This will threaten our tranquillity. “How can we de-stress properly with planes buzzing in the skies over our heads?”

Aircraft to change our 'tranquility'

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Any hope of enjoying a noise-free stroll in some parts of the Huntingdonshire countryside could be over, an environmentalist believes.

"Our tranquillity is under attack by road and air," said Gareth Ridewood, chairman of Huntingdonshire CPRE. "The affected area already has the new route of the A14 to contend with and sites like Paxton Pits could lose a great deal of their amenity."

Plans unveiled last week show planes could be 'stacked' in the skies above the district while waiting to land at Luton Airport.

Planes would circle an area bordered by Huntingdon and St Ives to the north and St Neots to the west and include Cambourne to the east.

The villages of Hilton, Papworth and Great Gransden would be directly under the stacking area, while towns and villages near the holding area can also expect to hear the impact as planes join and leave the stack would be allowed to fly over Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots.

Any flights holding above the district would be at a minimum height of around 6,000ft (1.1 mile).

According to the National Air Traffic Service, which has put the proposals forward, the noisiest planes flying at that height would produce sound equivalent of up to 61 decibels to the people below. The sound of a busy general office is 60 decibels, according to NATS.

It also claims that the new stacking plans will reduce the number of people living under the three new holding patterns than the two at present. It believes the drop will be 36 per cent - 39,908 down from 62,115.

Ian Hall, NATS director of operations, said: "This region is currently overflown by many hundreds of flights every day and that will not change under these proposals.

"More and more people want to fly and our job is to make sure they can do so safely and without delay."

NATS says the proposed changes, which would have to be approved by the Civil Aviation Authoirty, will be the first fundamental overhaul of airspace in the South East in several decades.

The scheme is currently under consultation and could be implemented from next year.

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly has expressed concern about the plan and has asked the Department for Transport what the implications are for Huntingdonshire.

"It looks like aircraft will now be able to circle above Godmanchester, the Hemingfords, Hilton and part of St Neots while they wait to land at Luton," Mr Djanogly said.

"I am very concerned about the possible environmental impact in terms of noise and pollution and would welcome the views of my constituents on this important matter."

South Cambridgeshire MP Andrew Lansley said he had already been contacted by concerned constituents and was examining details of the proposal.

Huntingdonshire District Council leader Ian Bates, who lives in Hilton, said: "This is a big development and the effect is potentially significant for Huntingdonshire.

"We will be seeking to work with the appropriate bodies and our local MPs in order to assess the situation and establish the facts about potential noise and the number of planes that may be in Huntingdonshire's skies."

South Cambridgeshire District Council said it was closely examining the proposals and would evaluate how the changes were likely to affect its villages.

Consultations end on May 22. If agreed, the new holding pattern will come into effect in spring 2009.

INFORMATION: To have your say on the plans, visit www.consultation.nats.co.uk


* Boeing 737-700s, which account for a quarter of all planes arriving at Luton, produce 60 decibels of noise at 6,000-7,000ft.

* The noisier A300-600 planes, which account for just one per cent of arrivals, produce up to 61 decibels.

* The sound heard on the ground is dependant on weather conditions and other background noise.

* Planes will not always need to stack before landing at Luton, if there is no queue they will not need to join the holding pattern.

Its effects

Earlier this month a survey published by the European Heart Journal suggested noise from aeroplanes could lead to increased blood pressure.

Despite the possible loss of amenity to Huntingdonshire, St Neots-based estate agent Terry Lovett said he did not think the extra noise would affect house prices.

"People may curse the noise overhead but many of us have come to expect noise in our lives," he said.Will the proposals affect the tranquillity of our area? Email your views to editor@huntspost.co.uk or write to 30 High Street, Huntingdon, PE29 3TB.

Flights involved

* The planes that may circle above Huntingdonshire will be aircraft queuing to land at Luton Airport.

* An average of 8.3 planes per hour would use the stacking system from 6am-11pm. This is set to increase to 10.3 next year and 13.1 by 2014.

* From 11pm-6am, an average of 1.1 planes would use the holding system, though this is expected to rise to 1.8 by 2014.

Need for Change

NATS says:

* Current holding patterns for Luton and Stansted airports can become intertwined, causing additional delays, burning more fuel and creating more noise.

* Air traffic has grown considerably since the shared holds were established and it is considered necessary to create three new, separate, holding patterns.

* The new patterns include two for Stansted airport and one for Luton, which will affect Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire.