UK's environment ministry opens consultation on airport action plans to address aircraft noise
Noise map of London's Heathrow Airport (source: Defra)
Wed 10 Sept 2008 – The UK’s Environment Minister, Jonathan Shaw, has called for views on how noise from English airports can be managed effectively and issued for comment draft guidance for action plans that airport operators must draw up on measures they will take to manage and, where appropriate, reduce the level of noise impact on local communities. This follows on from an EU directive dating back to 2002.
The directive (2002/49/EC) is aimed at requiring ‘competent authorities’ (e.g. airports) in Member States to produce strategic noise maps on the basis of harmonized indicators, to inform the public about noise exposure and its effects, and to draw up action plans to address noise issues.
The three main objectives of the directive are:
to determine the noise exposure of the population through noise mapping;
to make information available on environmental noise to the public; and
to establish action plans based on the mapping results, to reduce noise levels where necessary, and to preserve environmental noise quality where it is good.
In the UK, separate Environmental Noise Regulations for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were passed in 2006 to implement the directive. The Regulations require the noise mapping and action planning process to be taken forward on a five-year rolling programme. The first round of mapping was submitted to the European Commission last year.
As competent authorities, airports must produce action plans, which, once completed, have to be submitted for consideration by Defra, the UK’s ministry responsible for the environment. Under the directive, all action plans must be submitted to the Commission by 18 January 2009.
The proposed guidance from Defra includes the following actions for airport operators to take account of when drafting their plans:
·consider what further measures should be taken in residential areas that are exposed to more than 69 db LAeq, 16hr;
·examine the day, evening and night results produced from the noise mapping and consider whether there are any features of the noise impact that might be measured further;
·ensure there is an effective complaint system in place;
·consider the information from any noise complaint data that is held and whether there are any measures that might be taken to manage further noise impact;
·consider whether other new noise abatement objectives might be developed, with the aim of providing further management of the noise impact; and
·proactively engage with the land-use planning process.
According to Defra, these guidelines support the UK Government’s aim “to limit and possibly reduce” the number of people affected by aircraft noise.
The EU directive does not set any limit value, nor does it prescribe the measures to be used in the action plans, which remain at the discretion of those competent authorities. However, states Defra, the Regulations passed in 2006 do require the Secretary of State to publish guidance setting out limit values “or other criteria” for the identification of priorities for action plans and the draft guidelines “fulfil the requirement” for aviation action plans.
“Balancing the increased demand for air travel with the desire for a peaceful environment is a difficult challenge,” said Environment Minister John Shaw. “Much has already been done to reduce the noise from transport and industry, but there is more that we can do to limit, and in some cases reduce, the number of people affected by aircraft noise.
“It’s important that we get this right and develop the best available advice for airport operators if they are to deliver the most effective action plans. That is why we are seeking views on this draft guidance. I would urge anyone with an interest to respond.”