July 2018 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley
At this holiday time, when many people are flying off for a well-earned break it seems a good time to write about airplane issues which are often raised with me. Many people in the constituency make their living from aviation either by flying as air crew, by travelling themselves or by working in support functions in and around Heathrow and the other major airports. There is a balance to be struck. Whenever I go to Heathrow to fly with my job I invariably meet constituents.
From time to time I receive emails complaining about aircraft noise over the constituency. In the south-east corner of the constituency the complaints are usually about air traffic from the major airports. Wind direction plays a key part in this as when Heathrow is on ‘easterly’ operations planes come in to land over the constituency. Also at busy times planes can circle in a holding pattern and the turning increases the noise at ground level. In addition, in the holiday season there seems to be an increase in planes from Luton making their ascent over the constituency. Over the years I have raised these issues with NATS, the UKs leading air traffic control service and I have done so again recently. NATS acknowledge the issues but confirm that there has not been any particular change that would have increased these issues recently. I continue to be in touch with them.
The issue of a third runway has been a hot topic too, as indeed are all national major infrastructure projects. There are, of course, many factors to consider. One issue that I wanted to look at is how the provision of a third runway would take away the need for stacking of planes waiting to land in holding patterns. Stacking creates pollution and noise as aircraft circle in wait. I expect a third runway to do away with stacking so planes will be able to land straight away. It is also important to see local communities brought in to the debate to discuss these and other issues.
In other parts of the constituency I receive complaints on light pleasure aircraft practising their acrobatics over and over. This can create a noise nuisance as they circle round in the same airspace. We sit between the restricted airspace around Heathrow and Oxford airports, and in this unrestricted space this activity is permitted. Some constituents complain of the nuisance caused to a large number of people. I acknowledge that this is a problem and also that some people want somewhere to do this leisure activity. I am also aware that Oxford Airport would like to increase the restricted space around it which would narrow the free corridor and could potentially make this issue worse.
There is a European wide review of use of airspace which we should aim to participate in to ensure that our needs and views are taken into account. We also need to be heard as the project for the new runway develops to ensure that mitigation factors affect us in a positive way. Both of these are processes I have already started to be involved in, including within the House of Commons by asking questions of the Secretary of State himself. These issues will be on the agenda for some time and I would be interested to know the views of constituents on them. If you would like to share your thoughts on this or any other issue you can email me at email@example.com or write to me at the House of Commons or my constituency office.
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