Wales

Elfyn Llwyd MP demands rethink on low-fly jet training

Image caption A Harrier jet in the Dinas Pass, known in the aviation world as the Mach Loop

An MP has demanded the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to take immediate steps to stop low flying training over rural Wales, due to health risks.

Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Elfyn Llwyd claims the practice is damaging some of his constituents' hearing.

Wales is one of the three main areas in the UK where low-fly training is carried out because of its large areas of unrestricted airspace.

The MOD said low-level training was a continuing requirement.

Mr Llwyd wants immediate steps taken to tackle what he called the "severe health dangers" linked to the practice.

It is not clear where all the planes come from although one resident said some American aircraft fly from the east of England to use the airspace.

The Plaid Cymru parliamentary leader has urged the UK government to follow the lead of Germany, which ceased low flying in German airspace following research by academics on the health consequences.

That government also took steps to lessen the noise pollution, Mr Llwyd said.

However, Anglesey's MP Albert Owen said the training was essential and a big contributor to the local economy.

A statement by defence minister Andrew Robathan on 19 July indicated there had been an increase of 11% in flying hours on the previous training year across the UK.

Another question in the House of Lords revealed that 16 other countries, including Germany, have used UK airspace for training purposes.

Mr Llwyd said: "We must have an urgent rethink of this situation. More jets than ever before are now being trained and in no way are the people of north and mid Wales being compensated for this.

"In my constituency, a high percentage of those living in Dinas Mawddwy and Llanuwchllyn who were children in primary schools there, now have problems with hearing.

"Research by German Professor Isling proved beyond doubt that when jets fly at low altitudes, it does indeed have a detrimental effect upon an individual's hearing.

"While the German government will not allow low-flying of this type on its own territory, the UK government is meanwhile perfectly happy for them to use ours."

'Huge investor'

Mr Owen said he had to look at the big picture.

"What we're talking about is a base that has been here 60 years. Yes, it is noisy, the people understand that.

"It's a huge investor into the local economy. It brings quality jobs to the area and we have maintenance jobs attached to this fast flying.

"If that didn't happen in Anglesey, those jobs would go somewhere else.

"It's a balance between the economy and the defence of our country."

The north of England, including the Lake District in Cumbria, and parts of Scotland are the two other major areas for low-level flight training.

Last year, Dumfries and Galloway horse breeder Alyson King lost a £100,000 compensation claim against the MOD after arguing that low flights were causing distress to her family and the animals at a sanctuary she runs.

A MOD spokesman said in response to Mr Llwyd's proposal: "Current operations show there is a continuing requirement for our pilots to operate successfully in the low-level environment.

"To ensure our armed forces are capable of meeting the operational task, low flying training must be conducted in the UK before deployment to operational theatres."

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