Public must draw attention to threat to natural beauty

Tranquillity is a rare commodity these days. In the south Shropshire Hills we have perhaps taken it for granted.

I lived for many years in Snailbeach, on the approach to the Stiperstones, a National Nature Reserve and can vouch for that peace and quiet. No more! We face the threat of the destruction of that tranquillity by the noisy intrusion of a large number of flights of civil airliners.

Indeed, since last May, the skies above South Shropshire have seen a large increase in this traffic and we now hear that the government is preparing an initiative to throw the skies open and permanently destroy the very peace and quiet that both residents and visitors to the south Shropshire Hills seek.

The recent Queen’s Speech contains proposals to de-regulate UK air space. Do we as a nation really want or need this measure that will simply serve to boost airline profits by reducing fuel and other costs?

Flights formerly had to avoid Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) such as the Shropshire Hills. No longer. There was a ministerial proclamation on 31 May 2019 and since then the aircraft have been an almost constant presence. Friends have reported a procession of airliners from 6am to 10pm.

A local lady reported seeing 17 planes whilst out on her 6am walk, another afternoon she saw six in 30 minutes, all noisy and intrusive to the peaceful enjoyment of the countryside. If any new legislation is passed in favour of de-regulation of access to the skies then those who love the country will suffer.

AONB is a national designation that seeks to conserve tranquillity and other qualities in the designation, which talks of the desirability of hearing birdsong and the flow of water in streams and suchlike. The unregulated passage of airliners over AONBs in general and the Shropshire Hills in particular is incompatible with AONB designation.

Natural England is the government adviser on countryside issues and we might expect them to see off this threat. Shropshire Council might also step in to protect the AONB.

At the very least there should be a local debate about the issues reported here, but there has been very little in the press on this matter. It’s time for members of the public to step up. Our AONB is not a small thing; it is outstanding, unique and very vulnerable.

Dr Graham Tate, Shrewsbury

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