The body which looks after air traffic in the UK, the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) is inviting feedback for a new consultation into flight paths and holding patterns in the south east which could affect noise levels in places previously unaffected.

The region is already one of the most complex in the world for flightpaths, and will continue to be as more flights come into and leave Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City Airport. Ian Hall, NATS Director of Operations said: ‘All these airports have grown considerably in the past 20 years – London City has grown from virtually nothing since the early 1990s – and we have simply accommodated this growth within the exiting airspace structure.’

Redrawing the routes is intended to prevent further delays and avoid flying over as many towns and villages as possible, but some areas will inevitably fall under the new routes, and NATS has divided the consultation into five areas: Cambridgeshire; Suffolk and North East Essex; Chilterns and Luton; East Hertfordshire and West Essex: West and North West London; East London and South East Essex.

There is a dedicated website at www.nats.co.uk/TCNConsultation which has details of the proposed plans. Currently villages located in Essex, east of Saffron Walden, south of Bishops Stortford, along the Blackwater estuary and villages in north of Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, north of St Albans and south of Luton are all most likely to be affected by new holding patterns.

Graham Willis, rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: ‘NATS is just doing its duty, but with a 2%-3% growth in aviation annually, someone is always going to lose out by being under a flight path. We understand the desire to cut down on the noise pollution impact on people, but it should also be remembered that people live in and visit the countryside because it is tranquil, and aircraft noise is much more noticeable in an area where the ambient noise is less.

We are concerned that whatever plans are finalised we are effectively going to have a motorway in the sky in some areas which were previously very tranquil.’