Proposal to modify NATS’ planning and reporting requirements

Closed 3 Jun 2016

Opened 6 May 2016

Feedback updated 14 Jul 2016

We asked

Whether NERL should be required to produce detailed technology and airspace programmes for the remainder of RP2 by 31 March 2017 and an outline technology programme and airspace proposals for RP3 by 30 June 2018.

We also asked whether we should have the ability to appoint an Independent Reviewer to review the accuracy of NERL’s reporting on its technology and airspace programmes.

You said

You largely supported our proposals, although some of you commented on the detail. Some wanted the proposals amended to remove the ability of us and NERL to bilaterally agree later dates for the programmes and options, and some of you wanted additional requirements on NERL to report on noise and, possibly, air quality as well.
You largely supported our proposal to appoint an independent reviewer. Although one of you did not have enough understanding of the proposal to support it. NERL said it would engage constructively and positively with an Independent Reviewer.

We did

We modified NERL’s licence as proposed, but clarified that we would not agree later dates with NERL unless there were compelling reasons for reasons for doing so. In particular, we would not agree to later dates without first taking views from users. We considered that robust reporting on noise was important , but thought that this Licence modification, on the development of and reporting on airspace and technology programmes, was not the appropriate mechanism to introduce noise performance indicators.

We modified the licence to allow us to appoint an Independent Reviewer. As this is the first time that such a role has been envisaged in ATM, we said we would take a proportionate approach as all parties learn how such a role can add value to oversight of capital programme delivery. We said we intended to appoint the Reviewer initially for a one year period.


This consultation has now closed.

We will be publishing our decision on whether to modify NERL’s licence by 29 June 2016


The purpose of this consultation is for the CAA to learn your views on some changes we are proposing to make to the requirements for NATS’ en route business (NERL) to prepare service and investment plans in its economic licence. Our objective is to modify the licence so that NERL must produce detailed and technology and airspace programmes for the remainder of the current Single European Sky Reference Period (RP2 (2015-19)), and outline programmes for the next Reference Period RP3 (2020-24). This will replace the current specific requirements in the licence which have been overtaken by events.

This consultation sets out why we believe the changes are required and would provide users with greater transparency and understanding of NERL’s capital programmes given the significant changes from its October 2013 Business Plan for RP2.  review is necessary.
In addition to these pages, we have also made a full consultation document available. On this online version of the consultation we have reduced some of the text available in the full document.
  • Chapter 1 of the full consultation document introduces this consultation, giving details of the legal background to modifying NERL’s licence, information on how to respond to the  consultation, and our next steps.
  • Chapter 2 gives the background to our proposals.
  • Chapter 3 sets out the proposed modifications and explains why we have proposed them.
  • Appendix A of the consultation contains the detailed modifications to the licence.
The information below shows key extracts from the full consultation document, which will help you respond to this consultation.
In January 2015, in support of the UK-Ireland FAB Performance Plan for RP2, we introduced a new Condition 10a in NERL’s licence on the implementation of and reporting on programmes that fall under the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) Deployment Plan.  The Condition requires NERL to use reasonable endeavours to implement the major air traffic management modernisation programmes set out in the UK FAS Deployment Plan of December 2012.  These include raising the Transition Altitude (TA) to 18,000 feet, the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) and the implementation of the SESAR Pilot Common Project (PCP). To help us oversee the implementation of the modernisation programmes, the Condition required NERL to submit plans to the CAA in respect of TA and LAMP.
The plans were to be subject to consultation with users through NERL’s annual consultation on its Service and Investment Plan (SIP) as required under Condition 10 of the Licence.  During 2015 NERL identified the need to significantly change part of its investment plans for RP2, in particular in relation to the delivery of TA and LAMP Phase 2 and further identified an opportunity to bring forward intended SESAR-related investment from RP3 to RP2, whilst remaining within the RP2 cost envelope.  To allow NERL sufficient time to consult users fully on these proposed changes, through the SIP process, we amended the deadline for these reports to 30 June 2016 (CAP1362 – Decision on modifications to NATS (En Route) plc licence in respect of reporting of certain plans under Condition 10a).
When we introduced Condition 10a we considered that the new plans for TA and LAMP would provide more specific information to users, ourselves and other stakeholders which would supplement the SIP.  With the decision to delay TA and subsequent phases of LAMP-related airspace, it is our view that the provision of such specific information in the stated timeframe would be of limited or no utility.  Added to NERL’s decision to bring forward other technology plans from RP3 to RP2 in support of SESAR, we feel it is appropriate to review, and as appropriate amend, Condition 10a and its objectives.We therefore require the proposer or ‘sponsor’ of any permanent change to the published airspace structure to follow our airspace change process. 

Our proposals

Acknowledging the challenges associated with delivering the parts of the airspace programme set out in the NERL RP2 Revised Business Plan, in respect of the changes outlinedabove and taking account of concerns previously raised by airspace users in respect of the need to enhance the current SIP process, has highlighted a need to review and modify the NERL Licence against the objectives below:

  • Greater transparency and understanding of the NERL capital programmes for the remainder of RP2, given the significant changes from the October 2013 Revised Business Plan. Recognising airspace users views regarding the level of detail and transparency in the SIP, the requirement to develop, consult and adopt detailed programmes for airspace and technology for the remainder of RP2 will provide clarity around what NERL is expected to deliver and when, along with the expected benefits.  This will give users a greater opportunity to engage more actively in the direction of those programmes and provide justification should those programmes need to be amended in response to changing circumstances, dependencies and the latest available information;
  • Alignment with good regulatory practice in terms of ongoing independent monitoring of delivery against significant milestones in the agreed programmes. Such an approach also aligns with the recommendations of the Independent Enquiry into the NATS System Failure in December 2014 and will provide a useful evidence base and experience against which to consider the capital programme oversight arrangements for RP3;
  • Strengthening and clarifying the SIP process, by building guidance into the Licence around the information that should be considered, formalising the interim SIP arrangements and bringing all the reporting requirements into a single condition – compared to the current Condition 10a, which contains some SIP-like reporting requirements but does not form part of Condition 10;

  • Removing RP2 implementation and reporting requirements in respect of TA and LAMP, which NERL could not reasonably be expected to deliver in that timeframe, whilst maintaining momentum to deliver ATM modernisation  in the context of FAS and the SESAR PCP.


In pursuit of these objectives, we believe there would be benefit from greater transparency of NERL’s airspace and technology programmes and monitoring of progress against their delivery, for both airspace users and the CAA; and that this might most usefully be provided in the context of the existing SIP process, with the CAA providing additional guidance in respect of what it expects to be reported, rather than through separate requirements.  The remainder of this Chapter sets out our proposals to address the above objectives.

We propose to modify Condition 10 of NERL’s licence to include requirements to produce:

  • detailed technology and airspace programmes for the remainder of RP2 by 31 March 2017;

  • an outline technology programme and airspace proposals for RP3 by 30 June 2018.  We propose that the outline airspace plan should include options for implementing lower level airspace changes in the London terminal and related airspace area.


By way of guidance to NERL and to ensure the programmes provide meaningful information to both airspace users and the CAA, we also set out minimum criteria we expect the programmes to address in the proposed Condition 10(9).  These include the expected benefits in terms of safety, environment, capacity and cost-efficiency; significant delivery milestones, risks and dependencies; and information relating to potential service quality impacts during the deployment phase of any airspace and technology programme changes.

The dates by which we propose that NERL should produce the required programmes reflect discussions we have had with NERL about the time it needs to consult users and the need to ensure that they are sufficiently mature and approved by NERL’s Board before publication. However, we expect NERL to share its developing thinking through draft airspace and technology programmes in the context of the SIP process in advance of the March 2017 deadline.

In bringing the requirements to develop detailed airspace (and new technology) programmes explicitly into Condition 10, we also propose to delete Condition 10a in its entirety in the interests of simplifying and consolidating the relevant drafting.

We remain committed to supporting the necessary airspace redesign in the FAS and, therefore, will retain the requirement within the revised Condition 10, currently in Condition 10a(1), for NERL to use reasonable endeavours to further implement the major air traffic management modernisation programmes that support the delivery of  the FAS deployment plan.  The requirement will specify that these programmes shall at least include London terminal and related airspace redesign and implementation of the ATM functionalities of the SESAR PCP.  The requirement will be contained in Condition 10(4).

We have maintained the principle contained in Condition 10a of requiring NERL to report progress against significant programme milestones, by amending the SIP provisions to introduce specific requirements in Condition 10(11) to report against the delivery of the milestones contained in the detailed programmes.

Condition 10a(6) requires NERL to co-operate with any person we appoint to advise us on its progress and delivery against TA, LAMP and the SESAR PCP.  We propose to maintain this scrutiny of NERL’s delivery, by introducing a new Condition 10(12) which sets out that we may appoint an Independent Reviewer (IR) to review the accuracy of NERL’s reporting on its technology and airspace programmes.  Furthermore we will publish the IR’s conclusions.  The role of the IR will be to monitor and provide advice to airspace users and the CAA on the accuracy of NERL reporting, with the output then available to inform views during the interim and full SIP consultation processes.  In addition to providing scrutiny and assurance to airspace users, this will also provide an independent view to strengthen our ability to assure ourselves on the delivery of the NERL capital programme, in line with the recommendations of the Independent Enquiry into the NATS System Failure of December 2014.

We also propose, in Condition 10(12) that NERL shall pay for the IR, unless we direct otherwise.  Given that this is a new role, it would be appropriate to appoint the IR on a one year contract initially.  It is our view that as the IR will provide an assurance role on the activities to deploy FAS related projects, it would be appropriate for NATS to make an application to the NERL component of the FAS Facilitation Fund (FFF), which is focussed on disbursements in respect of additional operating expenditure in support of delivery of FAS projects covered by the FAS Deployment Plan.  This would, however, be subject to approval of the FAS Deployment Steering Group (DSG) on the basis of alignment with CAP 1249, which sets out the eligibility criteria for applying for funds under the FFF.

Implementing this condition at this stage in RP2, including the reporting and IR process, will provide experience and evidence for when we consider the arrangements for development of capital plans and their oversight in the RP3 context.

The proposed refinements to the SIP process provide the opportunity to formalise within the Licence the enhanced SIP process already in use for RP2, specifically, the additional Interim SIP requirement in June of each year in addition to the Final SIP to be delivered in December of each year.

Your views are invited

We are asking for your views on our proposals to modify NERL’s licence. Only after we have received views will we be in a position to decide which modifications to take forward and incorporate into the licence.



  • Commercial airlines
  • Airport operators
  • Air Navigation Service Providers


  • Airspace investment