CAMPAIGNERS have told Edinburgh Airport to stop ignoring the plight of tens of thousands of people who suffer daily “noise abuse” from planes after plans for new flight paths was stalled by the aviation watchdog.

Scotland’s busiest airport wants to increase capacity by allowing planes to land and take off using a wider variety of routes, but these have been put on hold by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which says the proposal cannot currently proceed to the next stage.

The changes could impact on 300,000 people living in Falkirk, West Lothian and Fife, who are currently not affected by the airport.

Noise concerns accounted for nearly half of the 7,193 negative responses to the Airspace Change Programme report.

The airport, which is owned and operated by Global Infrastructure Partners, says it needs to invest in new flight paths to meet increasing demand.

A network of new routes is being proposed over West Lothian and Fife, to the fury of residents and they launched a public consultation to the plans.

But a series of public meetings saw hundreds of people turn up to complain about the proposals.

Now the CAA, announcing the proposals will not go through to the next level, has asked airport bosses to make changes to a number of issues in the plan before it will look at them again.

A spokesman for campaign group Edinburgh Airport Watch said: “We welcome this news from the regulator, these proposals enjoyed very little support in communities.

“The airport never needed all these flight paths, they operate fewer take-offs and landings today than 10 years ago.

“We must also remember the tens of thousands of people who continue to suffer daily noise abuse from Edinburgh Airport.

“The airport cannot continue to ignore the plight of all these people in their homes and we call on them to learn from their past mistakes, and start a proper, meaningful and respectful dialogue with communities that leads to substantial improvements.”

Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “From the outset this has been a flawed set of proposals. The communities who would be affected have said this from day one.

Now the CAA appears to have agreed.

“They should withdraw their plans once and for all and get on with building good relations with communities impacted by their business.”

Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, added: “These plans have been arrogantly rushed through by Edinburgh Airport and the result has been flaws at every stage of the consultation.

“Now we learn even the technical aspects of the proposal were not up to scratch. We are pleased to see the CAA taking their duty as regulators seriously and putting a halt to these plans.

“This is only a temporary reprieve for local communities though, as the airport can still re-submit their application.”

Edinburgh Airport launched its Airspace Change Programme last year with a view to modernising its flight paths amid forecasts of continuing passenger growth at the base.

It held an initial consultation on the proposals, the biggest of its kind by a UK airport, from June 6 to September 19 last year. The largest number of public responses was received from people in West Lothian, closely followed by residents in Edinburgh, with 1,659 responses.

Just over half (51 per cent) of replies from people in the city were classed as negative, while 22 per cent were positive and 27 per cent were neutral.

Among the top “themes” identified were noise concerns and local pollution and environmental issues.

An airport spokesman said: “Scotland’s first airspace change programme in moe than 40 years is a complex exercise involving many organisations.

“Our ACP is the first of many and it is clear all of this needs to be co-ordinated with NATS [National Air Traffic Services].

“We are clear our proposal is the best balance achievable in terms of surrounding communities and our operation, and works for Edinburgh and Scotland.

“We’ll be working with NATS on the co-ordination issues to allow the CAA to restart its analysis so we can develop the airport for the future.”

HeraldScotland:

Background: Trial changes to speed up departures brought roaring complaints

By Sandra Dick 

THE noise started at 6am one morning. So disturbing and so loud that it forced residents from their beds, terrified something awful was happening.

And for those families who woke to find themselves living beneath Edinburgh Airport’s new trial flight path, it transpired something awful was, indeed, occurring.

The trial had started without warning. And for months to come, thousands of families – many of whom had move out of costly Edinburgh to the more affordable and peaceful housing estates of West Lothian – would find themselves bombarded by the roar of aircraft engines, day and night.

Some spoke of flights passing overhead every few minutes, so loud it roused them from their slumber, disturbing children’s sleep, disrupting day to day life and raising questions over when it might stop, if ever, and what living under a flight path was doing to the value of homes.

Edinburgh Airport insisted the six-month trial, which saw southbound planes take off over Broxburn and Uphall in West Lothian before turning east over the Forth and the south over East Lothian, was under full compliance with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guideline. They believed the new flight paths met the rules and were needed to meet demand.

The three flight paths that head west from Edinburgh Airport were becoming clogged by airlines all keen to take off at the same time in the morning – congested runways meant departure delays. A new westward route could enable a flight to take off every minute.

Of course, it was never going to be, shall we say, plane sailing.

The minimal interval between take-offs was trimmed from two minutes to just one.

The idea behind the proposal was the number of flights by large planes from the hub could double, increasing the total number of flights in and out of Edinburgh by 20 per cent, up to 120,000 every year.

The number of take-offs and landing was projected to soar by eight an hour. But this created noise levels of between 80 to 90 decibels from jets flying lower than 7,000ft – the same as standing just 16ft away from a busy road.

Residents, angry at this noise invasion, clashed repeatedly with airport bosses.

The first trial was halted two months early after the then transport minister Derek Mackay intervened.

News of a second flight path trial saw 640,000 households contacted and asked to take part in a massive consultation to help decide the future of the airport.

However, it was delayed after the airport lost 200 responses.

Almost 4,000 people responded to a second consultation. Few were terribly surprised when more of them of them disagreed with the flight path proposals.

Now the CAA has pulled on the air brakes, halting the airport’s process until new plans are submitted.

Edinburgh’s Airspace Change Programme is outlined on its dedicated website: letsgofurther.com.

On this occasion, much to the relief of many families living with the roar of a jet engine, “letsgofurther” has been replaced by “notrightnow”.