SCOTLAND’S busiest airport has been accused of putting up a ‘smokescreen’ over plans for three new flight paths that could see people living in thousands more homes affected by noise from planes flying overhead.

Edinburgh Airport is to leaflet more than 600,000 households in areas which might be affected by jets flying below 7,000 feet, when two new westbound routes are added to the existing three.

A third eastbound route is also to be added as the airport works out how to deal with congested routes as it serves 11.1 million passengers a year.

About 900,000 people are to be targeted by an advertising campaign, including via TV and newspapers, before the airport’s owners reveal the proposed new flight paths.

Ian Ferrell, chair of Dechmont Community Council near Uphall said it promises a re-run of a battle with the airport last year over a flight path that was briefly trialled.

He said: “This is how you do it nowadays – you say ‘we haven’t got any plans, tell us what you would like’ and then come back and say ‘this is what you asked for’. To me it’s just more manipulation.

“Instead of coming right out at the beginning and saying these are our plans, what do you think of that, they throw up a smokescreen. This is typical of Edinburgh Airport.”

Once they have heard back from the public, the airport will design new flight paths, and consult for a further three months on those.

Edinburgh Airport faced local anger when it trialled a new flight path over West Lothian last year, and had to cut the test short after the transport minister intervened, following complaints about noise and a lack of consultation of local communities.

Linlithgow MSP, Fiona Hyslop who carried out her own 2,000 local residents during last year’s trial added: “Following the serious concerns about how Edinburgh Airport handled the recent flight path trial, it is vitalthat they learn the lessons and ensure that this consultation is open, fair and transparent.

“The importance and value of Edinburgh Airport in terms of providing jobs and stimulating the local and national economy is well understood and appreciated but the impact of noise disturbance on local communities has to be responded to in a fair, open and transparent way.”

The planned changes are partly driven by new technology, but the airport said the new flight paths will help it cope with a huge increase in the number of planes arriving and taking off.

EAL insists nothing has been decided. It says current routes in the airspace above East Scotland and East Central Scotland were designed in the 1970s, when the airport only served around one million passengers a year.

The 14 week long consultation proposes a number of ‘design envelopes’ covering large swathes of West Lothian, Fife and East Lothian within which new routes are likely to be situated.

Gordon Dewar, the airport’s chief executive, said the initial consultation would help guide the design and development of future flight path options which he said were necessary to enable the airport to modernise to handle a massive increase in capacity while maintaining efficiency.

He added: “Our international route network has become the envy of many similar sized European Airports. however this presents us with challenges.

“The objective of the first stage of the consultation is to gain responses from the public that will help us inform the design of any potential future flight paths.”

“This time last year we were – justifiably in some cases – criticised for not engaging thoroughly enough with our neighbouring communities before running a flight path trial. We’ve learned our lessons.”