Helena Paul: Airport’s wings must be clipped

Edinburgh Airport. Picture: Scott Taylor
Edinburgh Airport. Picture: Scott Taylor
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Edinburgh Airport’s second consultation into flight path change ended this weekend heralding proposals for radical change in the use of the skies above the Lothians, Falkirk and Fife – akin to a new motorway network appearing above our heads.

Across a wide area, communities have united to raise serious concerns about the proposals, the manner and method of the consultation process as well as changes already made to the use of the airspace that are causing serious problems for many tens of thousands of people around the airport, some many miles from the end of the runway.

While nobody disputes the existence of an airport, or that expansion may at some point be required, there is widespread uproar at the airport’s behaviour. Elected representatives report mailbags and inboxes bulging with messages from concerned constituents.

As a campaign group formed to try and get a better deal for residents from the airport, we are also being inundated with heartbreaking stories from people who just want the noise to stop.

All are angry, and rightly, concerned at the impact the airport is having or may have on their quality of life, on their homes, businesses and schools, and the impact on vast areas of valued rural and coastal tranquillity that will be transformed permanently by jet planes roaring overhead.

Fairness is a pre-requisite in any consultation process, and is widely regarded as having been sadly lacking here. People everywhere are asking: “How can this be allowed to happen?”

The airport’s consultation was remarkable for many reasons; the lack of a coherent case for change, or of properly referenced data to support the proposals, the enormous volume of material that people had to wade through was slated for being unclear, poorly designed and intended to confuse, rather than be “clear, concise and readily accessible” as the regulator requires.

The airport says that 25,000 fewer people will be overflown as a result of its proposals – but have been widely and fiercely criticised for failing to count the populations correctly.

No account has been made of the “newly overflown”, rural populations have been ignored, and vast areas of new housing estates, some already built, others signed off by local authorities, have been left out.

In 2016, the airport assured people in many areas that they would not be affected by flight path change. In 2017, these same people now discover preferred routes have been designed to pass right over them, news they have greeted with, not unreasonable fury.

The stress and anxiety being caused is intolerable for many.

MSPs across all political parties spoke eloquently about the impact of the airport’s shambles on their constituents in a recent parliamentary debate on 27th April – “Flawed Airport Consultation” – a heading which really says it all.

Edinburgh Airport is not a local company at all but part of a global conglomerate ultimately owned offshore. It is a company that has behaved so unreasonably that it has lost all public confidence among the local communities surrounding it. Rebuilding confidence and trust will take sustained effort - and admitting to and ending their past and current abuses of their neighbours would be a welcome and refreshing start.

Helena Paul is a member of Edinburgh Airport Watch