HL Deb 26 June 1981 vol 421 cc1240-1

11.15 a.m.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what air traffic control permission was given to the twin-engined light aircraft which circled Wimbledon Village at a height of 1,000 to 1,200 feet between 15.05 and 15.25 hours on Tuesday, 23rd June.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, I understand from the Civil Aviation Authority that air traffic control clearance was given for low flying over Wimbledon last Tuesday. The authority granted an operator's request for an exemption from Rule 5(1)(a)(ii), of the Rules of Air and Air Traffic Control Regulations 1980, to permit flying at not less than 1,000 feet within one nautical mile of Wimbledon for the purpose of taking aerial photographs.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer, and I have no doubt that the safety factor here was taken good care of. But may I ask the noble Lord about the nuisance factor? The aircraft involved was a small, twin-engined aircraft, much noisier than a modern, large airliner. As the noble Lord said, the purpose of the aircraft being there was to take photographs of the tennis. Will the noble Lord ensure that the following factors are taken into account if there is any question of further permission being given? If I may say so to noble Lords, Wimbledon tennis fortnight, with its garden party atmosphere, was at one time an asset to the area. Today, in its commercial form, it is what many residents would call a damn nuisance. Will the noble Lord ensure that residents are not now subjected to unnecessary noise from the air, in addition to congestion on the ground?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am sorry that Wimbledon no longer attracts the approval of the noble Lord in the way that it did in former years, though I am not sure that that is due only to the low-flying aircraft to which he refers. However, I can assure the noble Lord that these permissions are granted only in exceptional circumstances, and indeed I think that this permission was the only one granted during this particular period.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord why a helicopter could not have been used?

Noble Lords

It would be noisier.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the operator applied for permission to use his own particular aircraft, which was a fixed-wing aircraft. But as the noble Lord will appreciate, a helicopter would doubtless cause even more disturbance.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there might be further applications for use of small aircraft of this kind by those who would wish to be able to watch the tennis without having to hear some of the language used by the players?

Lord Trefgarne

That is an interesting suggestion, my Lords, but they would then have to listen to the language of the noble Lord opposite.

Lord Morris

My Lords, would not my noble friend agree that a more peaceful way of taking aerial photographs would be by dirigible?

Lord Trefgarne

Doubtless, my Lords.