• Local communities affected by aircraft noise, and the aviation community, are encouraged to respond to a major CAA consultation
  • Proposal outlines options to make the decision-making process for changes to airspace more transparent 

Local communities affected by aircraft noise, and the aviation community, are being urged to respond to a major UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) consultation on how decisions are made on proposed changes to the UK's airspace structure. It outlines proposals aimed at making the process for changes to airspace more transparent and ensuring the role of the CAA in the process is clear. 

If someone, usually an airport or air traffic control body, wants to request a permanent change to the UK's airspace structure they must submit a proposal to the CAA, which goes through our airspace change process. These proposals are subject to detailed scrutiny by the CAA for safety, operational viability and the impacts on different stakeholders groups affected by a change. This process is used to decide whether a change goes ahead.

Following an independent review of its airspace change process carried out in 2015 by specialist consultants Helios, the CAA is now consulting on some important changes to this process that will make it more transparent and more engaging for all stakeholders.  The main improvements being proposed cover:

  • How consultations should be conducted with local communities and airspace user groups
  • How the end-to-end process can be made more open and transparent
  • The introduction of a new online portal to provide a single access point for anyone to view, comment on and access documents for every UK airspace change proposal
  • Adding new stages of evidence gathering, scrutiny and validation

Tim Johnson, CAA Policy Director said: “UK airspace is a key part of our national infrastructure.  Changes to the way in which that airspace is used can create benefits for the aviation industry and its passengers as well as impact to those on the ground affected by aircraft noise.  In making decisions about changes to how airspace is used, it is important for the CAA to have the trust of the public and the aviation industry, and have a transparent decision-making process in which all stakeholders can have their say.

“When Helios independently reviewed our airspace decision-making process, they suggested it could be more transparent, particularly for local communities affected by aviation noise.  It also said that the process could be clarified to give more certainty to the industry bodies proposing changes.

“Today, we're publishing detailed proposals to make the process more transparent, to increase our oversight of consultation, and to explain in detail how we balance different interests when reaching our decisions.

“This is an important opportunity for all stakeholders interested in airspace to have their say in how the CAA makes its decisions.”

The consultation is not about areas which are outside of the CAA's airspace change process, such as Government policy, which the CAA's process must follow. Government policy on issues such as whether flight paths are concentrated along a narrow path or deliberately dispersed, whether flight paths are alternated to provide periodic respite from noise, and whether tranquil areas are avoided, are not part of the CAA consultation. Individual airspace changes also fall out of scope.

The consultation, which is open to everyone, is available until 15 June and can be accessed at consultations.caa.co.uk.

Notes to editors

We are tasked by Parliament with making sure the UK's airspace is used efficiently and developed to meet future demands and that in making our decision we do so in accordance with our statutory obligations including guidance on environmental objectives.

In making our decision safety is our first priority.  Amongst the range of duties set out for us in the Transport Act 2000, we will also consider the results of engagement with local communities that may be affected and factor the results of that into our decision on whether a change goes ahead.