Councillors have expressed major concerns over plans to change Liverpool Airport’s flight path from next year.
Several members of Wirral Council, particularly those representing Bromborough and Eastham, are worried that their constituents will face more noise and air pollution if the plans go ahead.
One post on the New Ferry and Bromborough Labour Facebook page said the plans will concentrate flights onto fewer routes, increase noise and air pollution in South Wirral, and harm the planet.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport is currently consulting the public on its Airspace Change Plan (ACP).
A spokesperson for the airport said the ACP will not see air traffic increase in Bromborough and Eastham – but after looking at the plans local politicians said they were deeply concerned.
The public consultation has been running since January and closes on April 27 and you can submit your views by clicking here.
Why are some communities worried?
One flight path which has attracted much discussion in Wirral is the path for flights heading north or east from runway 27.
There are two possible options being considered for this flight path under the ACP.
One is called SID AGGER and the other one is called SID AGGER AR.
Both see flights heading over South Wirral but SID AGGER has caused greater concern from councillors about disruption for residents of Bebington, Bromborough and Eastham.
Labour councillor Liz Grey, Wirral Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said the proposed new flight paths would mean more disruption for some in Wirral.
Councillor Grey said: “I am worried about this plan.
“People can’t help but assume it will enable expansion and a lot of people in Wirral are directly affected, not just those in the immediate vicinity of the airport.
“Flights are dispersed on wide flight paths at the moment, once that narrows the same households will still be affected even if the planes are further away for some.
“There will be constant vapour trails in the sky.”
Cllr Grey said she was also deeply concerned about the climate change impact of any expansion of Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
She said: “It’s no surprise that I, as the cabinet member for the environment, totally oppose airport expansion.
“Air travel significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and that will disproportionately become a factor if it goes up.”
As well as the ACP, Liverpool John Lennon Airport is currently following an Airport Master Plan, setting out its vision for the airport until 2050.
A growth in passenger numbers and significant expansion plans are contained within that plan.
A spokesperson for the airport was keen to emphasise that the ACP and the Master Plan are separate things but several Wirral councillors see the ACP as paving the way for the expansion set out in the Master Plan.
Cllr Pat Cleary, leader of the Greens on the council, was highly critical of the consultation process.
He said: “I was gobsmacked to find out about this.
“I only found out after the original date for submissions to the consultation had passed.
“There are serious questions for the airport about what they are doing to construct a meaningful public consultation, what have they done to encourage people to respond.”
While Cllr Grey was also worried about increased disruption around certain parts of South Wirral, Cllr Cleary said he wanted to emphasise the huge environmental impact of air travel.
Cllr Cleary said: “There is nothing remotely sustainable about air travel. In a climate emergency we should be contracting air travel not expanding it. Policies should be geared to that effect.
“The current situation [the coronavirus pandemic] shows how non-essential an awful lot of air travel is, there is huge scope to contract air travel going forward.”
All three Liberal Democrat councillors representing Eastham expressed their worries about the flight path plans.
Cllr Phil Glichrist, leader of Wirral Council’s Lib Dems, said: “Concentrating flights into narrower routes is going to affect people. There is a concentration, currently, just south of Bromborough Village.
“There are figures in the report but the homes that might be affected are not spelt out. The way noise is measured smooths the figures out.
“That’s no consolation to people who will be disturbed by a series of planes, going overhead in turn, in their slots.”
Cllr Gilchrist also called on people to study the plans carefully, he said: “Various masterplans have raised ambitions of bigger aircraft and an extended runway.
“We have to remain vigilant. That is why the document needs careful study and getting to grips with before we are locked into something that’s going to be difficult to undo.”
A spokesperson for Liverpool John Lennon Airport, said: “The ACP is not about facilitating or encouraging future growth and we are not seeking to increase existing current available capacity to handle additional volumes of air traffic.
“However, this change does offer an opportunity to identify and minimise the overall environmental impacts of aircraft operations, wherever practicable. The ACP will need to be undertaken in one form or another regardless of the airport growing or not.
“In relation to airspace above Bromborough and Eastham, the new routes being proposed should not increase the number of flights over these areas and in some areas, will decrease the number of flights and hence decrease the impact of noise.”
On the consultation, the spokesperson said information was sent out to all local authorities affected by the ACP.
They also pointed out that the consultation has been extended by a fortnight to April 27.
The spokesperson added: “Coverage of the consultation launch appeared on local radio and a variety of print and online media following the issuing of a press release, in addition to notices promoting the consultation also being placed in a number of local newspapers.”