Biggin Hill Runway 03 instrument led flight path update from Woldingham Parish Council
Dear Woldingham Residents
We are writing to provide an update to the village on the Biggin Hill Runway 03 instrument led approach flight path. There was an unsatisfactory meeting in January for all participants (Residents, WPC and Biggin Hill) regarding the flight path and its interaction with Woldingham specifically houses on the Ridge. WPC took the action to work with Biggin Hill to investigate and pursue any further opportunities available to move the flight path further South, further away from the Ridge. Peter Holbrook (WPC) and Becky Rush (WPC and Surrey County Council) led on this and have been having frequent meetings with David Winstanley, CEO Biggin Hill Airport, in person and latterly on line totalling c 12 hours to understand constraints and pursue opportunities.
The line of investigation has reached a conclusion, bar one question which we await a response from the CAA on, so it is right to update the village.
We thank David Winstanley and Biggin Hill Airport for co-operating so fully with WPC throughout these discussions; as dictated by the CAA process we are not in a consultation phase and so appreciate the efforts and time invested by David Winstanley in answering our questions and following up on the potential options. We’d also like to thank Tim Brymer, Woldingham resident, Biggin Hill pilot and aviation lawyer, who gave his time to us to provide the technical challenge.
What is the current position of Biggin Hill Flights over Woldingham?
The Runway 03 approach is used when there is a prevailing wind. What we experience currently in Woldingham is a visual spotting approach where pilots, flying low, look for visual landmarks and turn over the village. This accounts for the sporadic, low flying, noisy throttle airplanes we see over the village today, that can feel like they are going to land in your garden. An instrument led approach for runway 03 will remove these low flying, turning planes from the main central village of Woldingham. This is good news for the bulk of the village.
What is the issue then? History of this flight path engagement
The first version of the runway 03 instrument led approach was first consulted on in 2015. WPC were not involved in this consultation because the routing took the approach south of the M25 over Godstone and straight into Biggin Hill, avoiding Woldingham altogether. This approach was thrown out by the CAA as it used Gatwick airspace.
The first involvement of WPC was in 2017 when the revised consultation was received showing the flight path for the approach now routed directly above the road of The Ridge. WPC along with residents and the WA wrote objections and Cllr Becky Rush and Cllr Keith Jecks agreed with the then CEO Will Curtis that the flight path would be moved further south so it would not directly overfly The Ridge, ideally so it would overfly the M25.
December 2019 WPC discovered that the Runway 03 proposal had been submitted to the CAA for approval, but on examination of the proposal it appeared that the path over the Ridge had not moved. Biggin Hill were contacted and Cllr Becky Rush raised it at the Biggin Hill Consultative Committee which she sits on representing Surrey County Council. David Winstanley attended the public part of the Woldingham Parish Council meeting in January; the ongoing engagement resulted from then.
What do we now know?
We know from our detailed discussions with David Winstanley that the flight path is not in fact directly over the Ridge road; that Biggin Hill had moved the flight path south based on our discussions in 2017. It has been moved south by 200m, which means it is not in line with the M25; but isn’t directly over flying houses. This is good news.
We also understand now that the flights will be higher compared to the flights we currently experience over Woldingham; this will have a significant impact on noise reduction.
What was the outcome of the discussions?
Once we had understood, and had it evidenced on maps and diagrams, that the flight path was in fact south of the Ridge the discussions were focused on whether it could be moved further south and therefore further away from the houses on the Ridge.
We have learnt that planning an approach for landing is a complex and technical business driven by a lot of technical requirements such as the final fix must be a minimum distance from the runway to provide stability for the plane, the angle between the final fix and the previous fix must be less than 30 degrees, and that the position of the final two fix points (which ultimately determines the flight path parallel to the Ridge) are interdependent on each other. We have examined each fix and whether it can be moved North, South, East or West to achieve greater distance between The Ridge houses and the flight path.
All discussions have been evidenced by relevant approach route planning operating procedures and policies.
David Winstanley is preparing a very detailed briefing pack to talk residents through the investigation and the “what if we moved it here..” scenarios. When this is finalised then we will share it with residents and invite the whole community to a public meeting where David Winstanley will take the village through the outcomes of the discussions.
We are sorry to say though that through this process we have not identified any option to move the route further South.
Final line of investigation
There is one final line of investigation we are awaiting a formal answer from the CAA on. This is to do with the interception point and the fixes; this affects the height the planes will be flying at. To manage expectations though this is a long shot because it would require the interception point to be a non whole 100ft integer and there is no evidence that this is something the CAA would allow, indeed the initial advice is that this will not be allowable. We still want to chase this point down, to ensure we have left no possible option open.
Once the final piece of information has been received a briefing document will be circulated and a public meeting arranged (most likely on zoom).
Once the new route is implemented there is a period of assessment to check that it is operating as intended, ie pilots are not wandering off course and straying over the houses on the Ridge, this will be our chance to monitor flights and report any issues.
You may be aware that there is an entire re-planning of London Airspace going on currently. One objective of this is to reflect the fact that aviation has moved on considerably since the 19060s and planes can climb to higher altitudes quicker, with a view to moving all London air traffic further up into the sky. Biggin Hill is part of this programme, and it may that during this process the Gatwick airspace shape reduces which would allow the 03 runway approach to follow a route similar to the one initially intended in 2015. This is many years off, but an opportunity that could be in the pipeline.
Cllr Peter Holbrook and Cllr Becky Rush
on behalf of Woldingham PC