Majority of communities against airport expansion

The majority of responses to Edinburgh Airport's public consultation for its airspace change programme on expansion proposals were negative, results show.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar. Picture: Alan Murray
Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar. Picture: Alan Murray

The facility has published the results of the survey, which ran between June 6 and September 19, and show an overwhelming number of objections to proposals of more flights on different paths as part of a massive expansion.

Airport chiefs say airspace redesign is needed as part of its modernisation plans, but opponents have raised concerns, mainly regarding increased noise over communities under the flight paths.

Controversy has surrounded the plans since the airport changed flight paths without consultation during its TUTOR trial last year.

Helena Paul of pressure group Edinburgh Airport Watch at one of the public meetings. Picture: Alan Murray

Following criticism the airport launched a series of public meetings, drop-in sessions, meetings with MPs and MSPs, leaflet distribution to households in the EH, KY and FK postcode areas and a social media campaign before the consultation.

There were 5880 responses - 5791 of those from the public - to the consultation and 85,342 visits to the website which outlined the proposals.

Seventy per cent of the submissions from community councils which responded to the consultation were negative – with noise concern the biggest issue.

A total of 71 per cent of the comments from individuals in communities in West Lothian were also negative, while in Falkirk it was 56 per cent and 67 per cent negative in Fife.

Helena Paul of pressure group Edinburgh Airport Watch at one of the public meetings. Picture: Alan Murray

In Lanarkshire (North and South) 67 per cent of people were against the airport’s proposals; the Borders was 63 per cent and the capital was 51 per cent. Only Midlothian was lower than 50 per cent with 45 per cent of respondents negative.

Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive, said: “This Airspace Change Programme consultation has been a very high priority since it began in June. We have gone over and above and what any other UK airport has done in terms of reaching out and listening to our neighbouring communities.

“Meeting and listening to people in our neighbouring communities has been an invaluable exercise for us. We have learned a lot about their hopes and concerns are in regards to the growth and development of Edinburgh Airport.

“We’ve run an open and transparent process which has been independently audited by The Consultation Institute who assessed the process as ‘Good Practice’.

“During the initial consultation we received a total of 5880 responses; 89 from stakeholders and 5,791 from members of the public. I’m encouraged with that public response which is detailed in the report.”

Pressure group Edinburgh Airport Watch say the airport should publish all the responses and is calling for any changes made to airspace since 2015 to be reversed until the consultation process is completely finished.

A spokesperson said: “We are saddened to see that Edinburgh Airport has not followed through on its promises of openness and transparency, and has failed to publish the responses it received to this initial consultation.

“While we remain unclear of the criteria the airport has used to assess the comments, it is obvious that the vast majority of responders across many geographical areas are in the ‘negative’ category and have said loud and clear that they simply do not want to be overflown by loud and disruptive aircraft.

“Since the disastrous TUTUR trial, hundreds of thousands of people have woken up to find themselves suddenly and without warning living under a busy and disruptive flight path - with no consultation, and with the airport continually refusing to accept that anything has changed.

“We are struck by the number of comments from people about the importance to them of tranquillity. For over a year now, we have been telling the airport that the only thing people want is to get their peace and quiet back, perhaps now finally they might take heed.

“In any reasonable consultation, the status quo should always be an option. It is clear that the airport does not enjoy any support from communities for the changes to flight paths it says are necessary.”

The consultation followed the requirements in the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) guidance on airspace change (CAP725) and the consultation approach, timeline and methodology was approved by the CAA prior to its launch.

Mr Dewar added: “We have also consulted with stakeholders across a wide spectrum of public and private sectors, encouraging people to engage with us and respond to our consultation question – what local factors should be taken into account when determining the position of the route within the design envelope given the potential impacts, and why?’

“The report does not put forward our response to the consultation. Instead, it describes what we did to highlight this initial public consultation and what the public, organisations and elected representatives told us.”

Airport chiefs say the findings from this survey will partly shape their design options for future airspace which they will present in early 2017 along with a second consultation process.