As one part of a complex package of proposed changes in aeroplane routes throughout south east England NATS (the private air traffic control company that now runs our airspace) proposes to change the easterly take-off path of planes leaving Heathrow and heading north or north-east in such a way that lots of people who are currently under the landing flight-paths to the east of Heathrow will no longer get relief from aircraft noise for the 30% of days in the year when the planes are landing from the west - the take-offs under the proposed new regime will go right over them.
It is entirely unacceptable for this added burden - and it is a big one - to be carried by anyone and we should all vigorously protest, even if we are not personally affected.
The NATS consultation (which you reported under the headline "Flightpath changes would affect 40,000 in south of the borough", Chronicle, May 1) seems as empty and meaningless as we have come to expect.
Consultations are clearly regarded by those holding them as a mechanism whose object is to enable them to say after the event, "we held a consultation".
There are a great many flaws in this consultation and I shall mention only some. As usual the language is dense and technical, and there are no summaries of either the particular changes or of the arguments for particular changes.
In fact for the changes to Heathrow take-off paths no ultimate arguments are presented at all. To discover what is proposed you need to look at maps on which it is impossible to see proper detail because they are on such a small scale (from Maidenhead in the west to Holborn in the east, and from East Bedfont in the south to Hemel Hempstead in the north, all on one side of A4, and with wide margins too) and in the case of the noise contour map the quality of reproduction is so poor it feels as if its being seen through a misty haze.
However it looks to me as if planes taking off to the east and then turning left (north) will do so more gradually that at present, meaning that more people under the eastern landing paths in Hounslow borough will suffer in future from aircraft noise whichever direction the airport is operating.
NATS makes much of its claim that the proposals are driven by the requirements to reduce congestion and increase safety. But it becomes clear that the real driving force is the demand from the Civil Aviation Authority to cope with the CAA's growth forecasts in the demand for air travel - more of the familiar and discredited 'predict and provide' mentality.
In other words, for "reducing congestion and increasing safety" read "getting more planes in the sky at the same level of risk".
The consultation has been given very limited publicity. At the end of the consultation document NATS lists the bodies and individuals that they call 'stakeholders' who they've sent the consultation to.
Of course it doesn't include you or me. Indeed NATS refuses to give individuals copies of the documents (they argue "the detrimental environmental impact of producing further copies") so you have to rely on their website (which for large slow documents is entirely unsatisfactory) or on getting to the main library in your borough (they haven't even sent it to branch libraries). They don't give a telephone number or email address to use if you want to ask a question or clarify something.
All in all it is profoundly unsatisfactory. I predict that after the proposals have been implemented and there are howls of anguish from residents subjected to yet more noise, NATS will reply that they held a 'wide' consultation and very few respondents registered any concerns.
They have just extended the consultation period by four weeks and it now closes on June 19, but don't wait until then to send your comments to: TCN Consultation, NATS, Freepost NAT22750, Reading RG1 4BR.
TOM BEATON Hounslow Green Party, Church Street, Isleworth.