Kent County Council (KCC) has called on the Government to reduce the number of night flights from Gatwick amid environmental and noise fears.
County Hall chiefs have “strongly urged” the Department for Transport (DfT) to drop plans to maintain the number of arrivals and departures, between 11pm and 7am, from the Crawley-based airport for the next three years.
At Gatwick, the number of permitted movements is 11,200 night flights in the summer months, nearly four times as many as Heathrow.
Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Michael Payne (Con), described the idea as “unacceptable” and warned about the impact of emissions from aircraft that were not decarbonised and potentially “disturbing” the sleep of residents.
We strongly urge the DfT to go further in imposing greater restrictions on the number of night flights so a true reduction is felt by affected communities rather than a continuation of the intolerable situation before the pandemic.Report to the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee committee
From December until the end of March, the DfT has launched a consultation on night time restrictions at the airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted from 2022 to 2024.
The DfT says a two-year extension of the current flying arrangements will “provide time” for the impacts of coronavirus on the aviation sector to be better understood, before making long-term changes.
In the survey, a DfT spokesman said:
It is important the government finds the right balance between limiting the adverse environmental impacts that night flights have on communities, whilst supporting the aviation sector and businesses that depend on night flights to deliver critical goods and services.
Prior to the coronavirus emergency, the UK’s aviation network was the third largest in the world, after the USA and China.
In 2019, airports served more than 370 destinations in around 100 countries and handled more than 297 million passengers.
UK airlines also provided about 230,000 jobs while contributing £22billion to the national government’s public purse over a 12-month period.
Whitehall ministers are expected to make a final decision on night time flights in the summer.
However County Hall’s Conservative administration has questioned the move.
In the report, Cllr Payne added:
Furthermore, residents have recently benefited from much quieter skies during the pandemic and therefore any return to previous levels will be more noticeable and much more disturbing.Cllr Payne
A Gatwick Airport spokesperson said:
We acknowledge that the issue of night time flying is a matter of concern for local communities and a balance needs to be struck between the economic benefits of night time flying and the needs of local communities. We operate within the current restrictions on night flying at Gatwick which are set by the Department for Transport and we work hard with our airline partners to maintain on time performance to prevent flights from operating at night due to delays and have also put in place a scheme of charges to incentivise our airlines to operate the quietest fleet possible during the sensitive night period.
While many people benefit from having Gatwick on their doorstep, we understand that aircraft noise remains an issue for some residents. We monitor the noise impacts of aircraft departing and arriving at Gatwick through a fleet of 23 noise monitors and have a Noise and Track Keeping system that provides residents with bespoke information on aircraft noise tailored to their postcode. In addition, we continue to support the work of the Noise Management Board, an independent body which brings together local community representatives with industry partners to reduce aircraft noise.
More broadly, the aircraft flown from Gatwick are increasingly modern with the newer types being introduced by our airlines up to 50% quieter than ones they replace, which has helped steadily reduce Gatwick’s noise footprint over recent years. Last summer, the Civil Aviation Authority published the 2019 noise exposure contour analysis for Gatwick. This showed that the airport’s noise footprint reduced in 2019, for the 3rd successive year, despite it being the airport’s busiest passenger year on record.Gatwick Airport
KCC members will discuss the County Council’s response during a virtual meeting on Thursday (18th Mar) from 10am.