UK's aviation regulator says airlines and airports must do more to tackle noise impacts before capacity can grow
Wed 11 Jun 2014 – With the government-appointed Airports Commission currently considering proposals for increasing the UK’s aviation capacity, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it is clear the industry will not be able to grow unless if first tackles its noise and environmental impacts more effectively. Although it supports the controversial building of a new runway in the south-east of England, the CAA says any proposal must show that it is sustainable, abides by the government’s aim of limiting and where possible reducing aircraft noise over time, and must ensure the impact on noise-affected communities is minimised, mitigated and compensated appropriately. To help drive improvements in noise performance and mitigation, the CAA has published a series of recommendations for the aviation industry in managing the issue.
The 85-page document covers actions airports and airlines could make now, as well as improvements by industry and policy-makers, ahead of any potential future increases in capacity. It focuses on ensuring airports work with their local communities more closely, as well as operational changes and ideas for incentivising airlines to reduce the noise impact of their flights. The CAA pledges to work with industry to consider, trial and promote novel practices to noise minimisation.
Airports seeking to expand should do more to make sure local residents see benefits from the additional capacity, whether through funding community schemes, direct payments or tax breaks. They should also “significantly” increase spending on noise mitigation schemes, to include full insulation for those most affected, advises the CAA.
“Community engagement is key to delivering additional runway capacity,” it says. “Experience overseas indicates that a sustained, transparent and genuine attempt to ensure communities have a say in decision-making, and experience the positive side of additional capacity and not only the disbenefits, enhances the potential for success when creating additional airport infrastructure.”
The CAA proposes that a new Airport Community Engagement Forum should be created to bring together local residents, the aviation industry, policy-makers and planners to focus on how new capacity can be developed and operated to minimise noise impacts and maximise community benefits, rather than whether it should be built.
The document explores potential strategies adopted at overseas airports and other sectors within the UK. It includes case studies of attempts to create new runways and airport facilities at Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and the lessons that could be drawn and applied within the UK.
The CAA calls on airlines to focus on noise performance when purchasing new aircraft and airports to structure their landing charges to incentivise airlines to operate cleaner, quieter flights.
National and local government, it suggests, could also consider the potential for tax breaks for local people and businesses affected by aircraft noise and, if other methods are not successful, the potential for a future noise tax to further incentivise airlines to procure and operate their fleets in the most noise efficient fashion possible and to internalise noise impacts in consumer decision-making.
“Very many people in the UK are already affected by aviation noise and it’s clear that unless the industry tackles this issue more effectively, it won’t be able to grow,” said Iain Osborne, Group Director for Regulatory Policy at the CAA. “The recommendations we’re making will help the industry to reduce and mitigate its noise impact, whilst also making sure the communities affected by aircraft noise are fairly compensated and feel much more involved in the way their airport operates.”