Gina Davidson: Flight path change provoked real fury

HERE we go again. That was my first thought at hearing the announcement by Edinburgh Airport on Tuesday that it was to launch a consultation about flight paths.

Thursday, 9th June 2016, 10:29 am
Updated Friday, 10th June 2016, 10:27 am
File picture: Ian Georgeson

Last year my house was one of thousands suddenly being overflown by increasing numbers of planes – out of the blue, you might say.

We had no idea that a trial of a new flight path was taking place until it started at 6am one morning, forcing us from our beds in fear that the engine sound overhead was so out of place, so loud, that something awful might be happening.

To us – and thousands of others in West Lothian – something awful did happen. Four months of flights on the TUTUR path waking us ridiculously early or through the night; at times flying over our heads every few minutes. For a town not directly under a flight path previously, it was hugely intrusive.

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Thankfully it was called off early because of the outrage of residents and number of complaints – and the airport did accept that it had gone about the whole pilot project the wrong way. But it was obvious that wouldn’t be the last of the plan to get more planes off the Ingliston tarmac more quickly at peak times.

A few months ago I heard that representatives from the airport were speaking to community councils in Cramond and Barnton, trying to appease long-standing concerns about the flight path which goes over people’s homes in those areas.

Now the airport has launched a full-scale consultation about just where it flies its planes. That the announcement was made at the home of Edinburgh Gin was rather apt – it certainly made me want to open a bottle.

The idea that I and thousands of others will be subjected to more planes once again makes my heart sink. I imagine it’s the same for anyone affected, whether newly or historically.

However, to give Edinburgh Airport its due, it is at least doing things the right way round this time: asking people’s opinions first before bombarding them with flights.

More than that, chief executive Gordon Dewar and his team are obviously very aware that the growth of the airport is coming into increasing conflict with the people who live under current and potential new flight paths.

As a result, 640,000 households will be contacted by the airport and asked to take part in a massive consultation which will help to decide the future of the airport.

Expansion is the undoubted aim for airport bosses, city businesses, many politicians (especially those keen on cutting Air Passenger Duty) and the tourist industry. It’s also key for many just looking for more holiday flights to more destinations without having to travel to Glasgow, Newcastle or further afield to get a cheap deal.

The problem though is the airport was never built to be an “international hub”. It was a small city airport, mostly for internal UK flights. It wasn’t built to be a Schiphol or a Heathrow – which is why it is constantly being upgraded. It was constructed on the outskirts of a small city at a reasonable distance from homes which could be affected by noise.

It’s not the airport’s fault that Edinburgh itself has changed and grown out towards it, nor that there are more and more homes just beyond the city boundary out in West Lothian.

But neither is it unreasonable for the people living in those homes – who were previously unaffected by plane noise – to worry that their lives will be detrimentally affected by the airport’s expansion.

Edinburgh has changed. It’s an international capital with tourism and the finance sector it’s main job creators, and they are heavily reliant on a well functioning airport. So now we are all to be asked what do we really want from our airport? Do we want it to continue to grow? Does the potential impact on tourism and business outweigh the impact on residents and the environment? Should it have another runway, never mind more flight paths than its current three?

Or should we accept that we’re a great, but small city – which is part of the attraction – and that our airport should be similar?

The fact that Edinburgh Airport wants to talk to communities about where flight corridors should be place is a great step forward. Get involved and let them know what you think.

Moving the goalposts on bridge date

“ON time and on budget” – the five words which government ministers, councillors, indeed any elected official knows will end up coming back to bite them when it comes to the construction of public infrastructure.

And yet still they utter them, still they build that petard and prepare for the eventual hoisting.

In this case, the construction is the new Forth bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, which will now open to traffic six months later than we were told.

Suddenly we’re told there’s an “official completion date” which is not to be confused with the “target completion date” as the latter is just wishful thinking, the former is the date the builders know they have to get the job finished by or face penalties.

Of course the public want to know when a big taxpayer-funded project will be complete – and how much it will cost in total – but surely it’s time that those five words are only ever said when the ribbon is actually being cut.

Fringe still overflows with flights of fancy

I DOUBT I’m alone in not being overly concerned that there are 45 fewer shows in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year.

Years of record-breaking numbers and ticket sales were bound to come to a halt at some point – especially as it becomes ever more expensive for performers to put on a show, which in turn hikes prices for audiences.

And let’s remember it’s still the largest event of its kind in the world and millions of tourists will still flock to Edinburgh to catch shows and soak up the party atmosphere.

Let’s make Neil feel welcome

NEIL Lennon is coming back to Scottish football – and to our fine city rather than to the west. Let’s make sure his time living in Edinburgh is not blighted the way it was when he was last working in the SPL. Both Hearts and Hibs have bright futures – football supporters of either side should not tarnish that shine.

Park and pay up

PARKING will no longer be free on Sundays. Let’s hope the council can get the bus service to run more frequently then – if the aim is to encourage use of public transport.