AEF responded to the CAA’s consultation on changes to the airspace change process by calling for community views to be better represented by the CAA, and for the new process to have clearer environmental criteria for judging proposed new flight paths and a review mechanism to challenge airspace decisions.
Following strong community opposition to trials of new flight paths at several UK airports, the Civil Aviation Authority has been considering whether its airspace change process is fit for purpose. In 2015 it brought in consultants, Helios, to advise on this issue, and their report published last December identified significant shortcomings in the current process, particularly in relation to transparency, and the lack of formal opportunities for communities to participate. The CAA has now drawn up and consulted on proposals for a number of changes to the process, based around the recommendations of the Helios report.
AEF has submitted a comprehensive response to the CAA consultation, drawing on feedback we received both at the event we organised with AirportWatch during the consultation period (in which CAA speakers came to address communities and take questions on their proposals), and through written consultation with our members. Our response can be accessed on the CAA’s website or downloaded here.
What we think
We are cautiously supportive of many of the proposed changes. Ensuring easy public access to all key documents relating to an airspace change, requirements for sponsors to clearly set out the reasons for their proposal, and a more hands-on role for the CAA in scrutinising applications should all, for example, help to make the process more rigorous and effective.
We have concerns however about:
- The extent to which the revised approach continues to rely on communities fighting their own corner rather than having their interests actively represented by the CAA.
- The lack of clarity about what criteria the CAA will use to judge whether the environmental impacts of an airspace change proposal are acceptable and the conditions under which an application would be refused.
- The limited scope of the proposed process (with trials, vectoring practices in relation to arrivals, incremental increases in concentration, changes to the number and type of aircraft using a given flight path, and changes to landing and take-off procedures all excluded).
- The lack of a clear mechanism for revoking a change if the impacts turn out to be substantially different from those anticipated at the start.
In parallel to the CAA’s consultation on process, the Government has been informally consulting on proposals for changes to its policy for airspace change. AEF has participated in various discussions with Government and others about problems and possible solutions. We are anticipating a formal consultation on these in the autumn. Meanwhile the CAA expects, having considered responses to the consultation just closed, to reconsult later this year on changes to CAP725, the formal document setting out the requirements of the airspace change process.