New flight path over Midhurst ‘threatens safety’

Control tower at Farnborough Airport
Control tower at Farnborough Airport

A PROPOSAL for an ‘airspace grab’ in the skies above Midhurst will dramatically increase noise, the risk of accidents and pollution, objectors have claimed.

TAG Farnborough Airport has applied for about twice the volume of controlled airspace that London Gatwick Airport uses to handle 34.2 million passengers per year.

It caters for civil commercial and private jets and currently handles around 23,000 flights a year, although it has permission to cater for 50,000.

The proposals would reduce the altitude of aircraft and, it is claimed, threaten the amenities of thousands of residents as well as the future of gliding groups near Pulborough and in Hampshire which would have restricted airspace.

A spokesman for Lasham Gliding Society said at a presentation on its objections: “This corridor brings the potential of mid-air collision to an unacceptable level while increasing noise and emissions over towns dramatically.”

Petworth MP Nick Herbert is already backing the Pulborough-based Southdown Gliding Club’s fight against the plans. Now Chichester district councillors and MP Andrew Tyrie have been asked to move against the proposals.

The spokesman told the Observer TAG Farnborough Airport was proposing to take over ‘a vast area of lower-altitude controlled airspace’.

One of the flight corridors is over Bognor Regis, east of Chichester and Midhurst, over Easebourne and Fernhurst across to Haslemere. It would be used by some 20-30 aircraft 
every day.

Currently, aircraft pass above Midhurst at about 7,000 feet, but the proposals could bring this to as low as 4,000 feet.

The noise level in the Midhurst area could rise to 64 decibels.

“Seventy decibels is recognised as ‘annoyingly loud’ and equivalent to a hoover at one metre, 60 decibels is ‘loud’ and a hoover at three metres, both levels are described as loud enough to 
disturb conversations,” 
said the spokesman. In addition, he said jet engines were less efficient and used more fuel at lower altitudes, which increased pollution.

There was also a safety risk: “There is now an aviation ‘gateway’ about 20 miles wide between Southampton and just 
west of Gatwick which was used by some 250,000 aircraft in 2013.

“This proposal to reduce the height of the controlled airspace will compress the amount of air traffic into a gap just six miles wide. This must clearly increase the risk of collision.”

Roger Walker, director airport operations at TAG Farnborough Airport, said: “The proposed airspace design would offer all airspace users predictability and consistency of operations, leading to further reductions in noise and 
CO2 emissions. A known and more predictable environment will assist us in catering for all air transport movements and do so in a way which benefits efficiency and safety for many airspace users, and the environment.

“We are holding a public consultation and welcome input from all parts of the community. Until May 2, interested parties are encouraged to provide feedback.