Picnic at Newmarket Heath and Airspace Change Proposal

It was such a gorgeous day today, really warm with lots of sunshine, that we (myself, Mum and Mum’s friend’s nine-year-old daughter) went for a late-afternoon picnic at Newmarket Heath. First, we raided Waitrose for picnic food, then walked across the sandy tracks (it felt just like going to the beach!) in Warren Hill Plantation, to the southern edge of the wood. We settled down in the shade of the trees, with lovely views across the countryside, to eat the grub.

Newmarket Heath - view south-east from Warren Hill Plantation

Newmarket Heath - view south-east from Warren Hill Plantation

I did wonder why we brought two dogs with us – they wanted to run around and have sticks thrown for them, but ended up trampling the picnic (and some of the picnickers!). We sat and mused (and the nine-year-old meditated) for a while and it was a really lovely afternoon.

I wonder how much longer it will be quiet and peaceful in rural Suffolk and Cambridgeshire? It was only last month I read “Newmarket racehorses ‘under threat’ from Stansted expansion” in The Times, and wondered why racehorses deserve greater protection than humans from increased aircraft noise! National Air Traffic Services (NATS) recently consulted on its Airspace Change Proposal to re-organise the stacking system used by aircraft queueing to land at some airports in south-east England.

Among the potential changes in East Anglia, it is proposed that aircraft currently stacking over Royston and Sudbury (ie urban areas), will stack over rural parts of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Whilst this may mean that fewer people are beneath the stacking aircraft, the impact on those people will be significantly greater. When aircraft stack over urban areas, the noise is masked by the constant background noise of urban life, whereas the noise of aircraft stacking over rural areas will be much more noticeable, because the background noise is so much lower.

The consultation period ended in June, but all the relevant documents are still available from NATS Airspace Change Proposal Consultation Document page, including the Initial Feedback Report published in July 2008. On 24th July, the Newmarket Journal reported that 86% of respondents to the consultation were against the proposal, and that, following pressure from local MPs, the House of Commons Transport Committee will lead an inquiry into airspace management. I will be interested to see how the proposals might be changed in response to consultation responses and the Transport Committee inquiry.

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