The National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has proposed to create a new flight path over some of the most cherished and tranquil countryside in England.
The flight path will cut right through the Cotswolds and the North Wessex Downs, slice down the Test Valley and bisect the New Forest ? through the middle of the two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a national park. If this proposal goes ahead, flights on this new route will run throughout the night and they will start as early as April next year.
Airplanes will pass as low as 5,500ft, generating up to 70 decibels of noise. At this volume, the sound of an aircraft overhead is equal to that of a car at 40mph passing about 20ft away. According to the national Tranquillity Map, plotted by the CPRE, this same area is a rare survivor, one of the least disturbed by noise pollution in England.
The proposal also has another dimension. Some 30 airplanes a night will travel along it to begin with, but there is nothing to stop it being used far more heavily by the two southern airports ? Bournemouth and Southampton ? it is designed to service. Essentially, a five-mile-wide ‘motorway’ in the sky is being created and it will inevitably generate traffic. Passenger numbers are forecast to triple at Bournemouth airport within 10 years, from one million to three million; Southampton currently handles fewer than two million passengers, but that fire Is also expected to triple by 2015, and double again to six million by the year 2030.
‘We are constantly reviewing airspace. It is a rolling process,’ declares a NATS spokesman.
A fuller version of this story was published as the leader in Country Life, August 16, 2007