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Noise Action Plans for airports imminent

Following on from the EU Directive 2002/49/EC, the UK government has devolved authority to produce Noise Action Plans to airport operators. The first action plan – for Heathrow – is expected in week commencing 8th June. 

To enable airport operators to produce Action Plans, DEFRA has produced guidance. (See ‘ Guidance for Airport Operators to produce airport noise action plans’.)

The timetable for airport operators is as follows (latest dates):
1st July 09: Formal Consultation on draft noise action plan commences;
21st Oct 09: Formal Consultation ends;
30th Nov: Draft Noise Action Plan and accompanying summary is sent to the Secretary of State for Transport and copied to DEFRA

There are a lot of generalities in the guidance, eg “The Action Plan must be designed to manage noise issues and effects, including noise reduction if necessary” (2.05) but there is a total of lack of precision where it matters. For example, nowhere is it specified what is “necessary”.

The EU Directive allows national governments to set noise levels to be achieved by Action Plans, but the UK government has declined to do so.

The strongest statements in the guidance that we can find are:

.. supports the Government’s aim .. to limit and where possible reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise.” (1.02)

As a first priority, consider what further measures should be taken in areas shown by the noise maps to have residential premises exposed to more than 69 dB LAeq,16h”. (3.12)

The upshot is that, in practice, there is no firm requirement anywhere to actually reduce noise or to prevent it increasing.