“When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty”

This blog was first posted on the the HACAN east website –  “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty”. It describes how the CAA has allowed London City Airport to concentrate all its flight paths without any meaningful consultation with residents.  The contrast with Heathrow’s approach couldn’t be more stark.  Heathrow is financing a year-long study into how respite can be meaningfully introduced.  It is even possible that London City’s plans may undermine Heathrow’s efforts.

by John Stewart

“When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty”

These words were thought to have first been uttered by the American President Thomas Jefferson. And they have been used by many people since.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that they apply to London City Airport’s plans, just given the green light by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to concentrate its flight paths over selected communities across London. To, in effect, create noise ghettos. Beginning 4th February.

HACAN East is speaking with lawyers to find a way of challenging the decision.

Most days Bow, Leyton, Leytonstone, Wanstead, Redbridge, Barkingside and Collier Row will get all the departures from the airport. Thamesmead will be badly hit by arrivals. All these areas will be hit about 70% of the time in a typical year: the days a west wind is blowing.

When the wind comes from the east all the departures will go over Barking Riverside, Dagenham and Hornchurch. And all the arrivals will go over Sidcup, New Eltham, Mottingham, Catford, Forest Hill, Dulwich Village, Herne Hill, Brixton, Stockwell and Vauxhall.

Although these changed flight paths are due to come in on February 4th, most of the communities that will be affected have not been told about them.

The information is hidden away:

http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/Module%20B%20final.pdf (page 26 indistinct map for South London and p27 for Thamesmead).

And inhttp://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/B05-LCAL_A_ConsultationDocumentIssue1.0.pdf(page 24 for Dagenham and page 26 for Leyton and Leytonstone).

In 2014 London City carried out the most minimalist of consultations. It put a technical document on its website (telling virtually nobody it was there it was there) and informed its supine Consultative Committee who discussed the matter in closed session and whose website was down during the ‘consultation’ period.

London City argued that it did all it was required to do as set out in the guidelines of the CAA which is charged with overseeing the process. It based its argument on its belief that this was not a significant change.

We beg to differ. Areas in North East London will get 30% more aircraft overhead than they do now. And South London will be transformed. At present planes from London City do not present a big problem to most people in South London (outside Thamesmead). This is partly because they are less noisy than the Heathrow planes but mainly because they are dispersed across a wide area.

All this will dramatically change for South London. All the aircraft will be concentrated over selected areas. These areas will get all the City planes when the east wind blows, the very days they currently enjoy much welcome relief from the continuous stream of Heathrow aircraft they get during westerlies.

And, just before Christmas, the Civil Aviation Authority agreed with London City Airport that this was not a significant change! It published a press release announcing its decision in late November: http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=14&pagetype=65&appid=7&mode=detail&nid=2497 but its full reasoning wasn’t made available until the 22nd December: https://www.caa.co.uk/Commercial-industry/Airspace/Airspace-change/Decisions/London-Airspace-Management-Programme-Phase-1A/

The CAA was already in deep trouble over the way it oversaw changes at Gatwick and elsewhere. A report (commissioned by the CAA) from the consultants Helios slated it: www.caa.co.uk/CAP1356. The independent report slammed the CAA over the way it had conducted the consultation about flight paths at airports across the UK. It branded the consultation as lacking transparency and criticised the CAA for being judge and jury.

The report came out in early December, just ten days after the CAA announced that it would allow London City Airport to concentrate its flight paths. When I met with the Civil Aviation Authority’s CEO Andrew Haines, a decent and thoughtful man, I asked him why they hadn’t waited until they had seen the Helios Report before deciding on the flight paths for London City and other airports. He believed they might have run into legal difficulties if they had done so.

But the CAA’s endorsement of London City’s flight path plans and the consultation which preceded it shows much its processes need a complete overhaul.

The Civil Aviation Authority:

  • Endorsed a 30% increase in flight numbers as not significant
  • Allowed concentration in South London when dispersal was presenting few problems
  • Took no account of the joint impact of London City and Heathrow aircraft, now or in the future
  • Ignored the numbers of people – running into tens of thousands, maybeover 100,000 – affected by the changes
  • Has not informed communities of the changes less than a month before they are due to begin

I’ve known the CAA well over the years and it does do good work – sound research into noise and safety for example. But its supervision of flight path changes is not fit for purpose.

The hope of the local communities had been that it would challenge City Airport. London City has over the years managed to alienate local communities, local authorities, the Mayor of London and many of the area’s councillors and GLA members. Some of my friends in West London may criticise Heathrow. And Heathrow has made mistakes. But, in recent years, Heathrow has poured a lot of money into studies on effective respite, into assessing changes in flight paths and their impacts on communities and into trials of steeper descent approaches.

London City, by contrast, couldn’t even been bothered to tell communities that they will soon be living under concentrated flight paths. We expected nothing more from the airport. We were, though, expecting more from the CAA.

The CAA has let us down badly. It has concurred in a process that is riddled with injustice. It has allowed certain areas to be turned into noise ghettos…when that didn’t need to happen. Where’s the justice in that?

It is inconceivable that tens of thousands of people will accept this. As Thomas Jefferson might have said, “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.”

 

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