Concern Over New Flight Paths That Will Come Close to Houghton Regis


by Cllr Adam Zerny, Leader of the Independent Councillor Group at Central Bedfordshire Council

  • Leighton Buzzard councillor who called Potton residents NIMBYs knew about flight paths consultation a year before other councillors.
  • Airport insists telling two councillors amounts to informing the Council.
  • Flight paths consultation ends in just eight days - Have your say before it's too late!

News of the proposed new Luton flight paths came out of the blue last September. The changes would see big increases in the volume of low-flying flights heading over Potton, Biggleswade, Arlesey, Stotfold, Wrestlingworth and many other towns and villages in Central Beds [1].

One of the key issues raised by residents and councillors alike when Luton Airport's consultation began in November 2020 was that there had seemingly been no prior notification of changes to flight paths. The first we knew was when the consultation on final options appeared online. What's more, for many communities, all options in the consultation see flights going straight overhead.

However, it has since come to light that TWO Central Bedfordshire councillors have known about the planned changes since 2019!

In November last year, a motion was put to Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) by Independent, Adam Zerny, seeking agreement from councillors that the Council strongly oppose the controversial flight paths consultation being conducted by Luton Airport. The motion was passed, but not everyone agreed. Several councillors abstained including Cllr Bowater (Conservative, Leighton Buzzard). Cllr Berry (Conservative, Leighton Buzzard) even voted against it! [2].

Indeed Cllr Berry even went to the trouble of arguing against the motion; he dismissed opposition to increased flights as "WIMPA. Why In My Potton Area. Quite simply it's a NIMBY situation.”
Even though councillors are not usually permitted ad hoc presentations, Cllr Berry spoke with a map of the flight routes behind him. He said "There is no direct effect on our people which isn't there already", which may come as news to residents of Potton, Gamlingay, Wrestlingworth, Arlesey and Stotfold who will see a significant increase in air traffic volume if the proposals go ahead. To view the meeting webcast see [3] in the appendix.

After the Council meeting, we contacted Luton Airport with a couple of questions. We asked whether it was true that one of the easterly flight paths options appeared to miss Leighton Buzzard completely with routes going right around the town, an option which was seemingly unavailable in other areas. Luton Airport confirmed this was the case [4]. So much for Cllr Berry branding Potton residents as NIMBYs!

Still unaware of the councillors' involvement, we asked Luton Airport to send me the minutes of any meetings which had taken place with councillors, prior to the announcement of the public consultation.
The airport forwarded the documents and while scanning through them, two familiar names could be seen on the committee list.

Slightly taken aback, we then asked Luton Airport to confirm it had ever consulted with CBC or any of its councillors earlier in the process.

It said it had been in touch with councillors as early as March 2019 and CBC councillors had been shown the routes in December 2019 at a Noise & Track Sub Committee (NSTC) of the Luton Airport Consultative committee (LLACC). It seemed Cllr Berry attended the meeting and according to Luton Airport both Cllr Berry and Cllr Bowater would have received a document with plans for the project showing flights heading right over Potton, Biggleswade and Arlesey.

I have attached the relevant page of the document with the date on it:

Luton Airport says there was also a public engagement day in February 2020 to provide an update on the process of choosing new flight paths. It confirms Cllr Bowater and Berry both accepted an invite.
It seems that by July 2020, Cllr Berry had stood down from LLACC and instead Cllr Perry (Conservative, Caddington) and Cllr Bowater were CBC's representatives. Neither attended the last documented meeting [5] in July 2020 although Luton Airport says committee members would always be sent the minutes.

The minutes of these meetings are online and it can be seen Cllrs Berry and Bowater have been recorded as members of the committee as far back as 2015 [5].

We thought it might be worth checking with CBC whether it knew anything about this. CBC told us it logs all councillors who sit on external bodies on this web page. The LLACC members are listed as Cllr Bowater and Cllr Perry.

And yet I cannot recall any occasion during the years prior to the public consultation where Cllrs Bowater, Berry or Perry ever made CBC councillors aware of anything about these proposed flight paths changes. Senior Council officers say CBC has not been contacted by the airport for it’s contribution to any discussion of new flight paths.

It seems very odd that each of the councillors who had served on these committees represented the south of Central Beds and not affected areas elsewhere.

We contacted Cllrs Berry and Bowater to ask if they told other councillors, council officers or committees about these flight path changes but neither responded to my enquiries.

The public consultation ends on 5th February so there is just one week to go. Have your say!
To read more about the process click here.

To learn how you can oppose it visit this website created by campaign group CALF who are opposing the proposals and click on Objections.

Read about the consultation here.
Motion Proposed by Councillor Zerny
"This Council strongly opposes the current flight path proposals put forward by Luton Airport and NATS which affect most residents within Central Bedfordshire. It is completely inappropriate that those in the most affected areas are presented only with options resulting in large numbers of flights directly overhead. Furthermore, in light of this lack of options and the significant changes wrought on international travel by COVID, this Council believes the only appropriate course of action would be for Luton Airport to recommence the whole process, considering all options and this time include affected residents and local authorities right from the start. This Council asks the Portfolio Holder for Community Services and the Assistant Director for Community Services to write to Luton Airport and NATS requesting this course of action"

Councillors for the motion: Baker (Aspley & Woburn), Blair (Ampthill), Bond (Biggleswade), Brown (Shefford), (Chatterley (Dunstable), Clark (Cranfield), S.Collins (Toddington), Crawley (Dunstable), Dalgarno (Arlesey), Dixon (Stotfold), Duckett (Ampthill), Farrell (Houghton Hall), Foster (Biggleswade), Goodchild (Houghton Hall), Gomm (Flitwick), Graham (Silsoe), Hamill (Tithe Farm), Hares (Houghton Conquest), Harris (Stotfold), Harvey (Linslade), Hegley (Dunstable), Jamieson (Westoning), Liddiard (Shefford), Mackey (Flitwick), Maudlin (Sandy), Sanders (Dunstable), Saunders (Stotfold), Shelvey (Arlesey), Shingler (Barton), Smith (Ampthill), Snelling (Linslade), Spurr (Leighton Buzzard), Walsh (Toddington), Watkins (Biggleswade(, Wenham (Arlesey), Whitaker (Biggleswade), Wye (Potton), Zerny (Potton)

Councillors against the motion: Berry (Leighton Buzzard)

Councillors abstaining: Bowater (Leighton Buzzard), K.Collins (Caddington), Dodwell (Leighton Buzzard), Ferguson (Leighton Buzzard), Firth (Northill), Ghent (Dunstable), Matthews (Cranfield), McVicar (Dunstable), Morris (Cranfield), Perham (Linslade), Perry (Caddington), Spicer (Eaton Bray), Tamara (Dunstable), Wallace (Leighton Buzzard), Versallion (Heath & Reach), Young (Dunstable)

[3] Webcast can be seen on here from 2.04.38. Cllr Berry can be heard from 2.13.18.

[4] Luton Airport added that 'Under a previous airspace change implemented in May 2006, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) placed a condition on LLA arrivals which is that arriving traffic for Runway 07 (formerly Runway 08, designation changed in May 2020 due to magnetic variation) should not be routinely vectored over the town of Leighton Buzzard, unless tactically unavoidable. We infer that the intent of this CAA condition is to minimise overflight of the town (whether via a published route, or vectoring), unless tactically unavoidable. See CAA Airspace Policy, Post Implementation Review letter dated 31 Jan 2008, ref 8AP/066/02/06/02 p.3 para 2.2.3 et seq.'

Additional Notes

These Descent Paths Over Toddington, north of Houghton Regis and Stanbridge and Leighton Linslade taken from video at Consultation documents would be used about 30% of the time, depending on the direction of the wind.