Skip to content

Plans to tackle airport noise a sham, say campaigners

8th February, 2010


Airport ‘noise action plans’ will fail to tackle impacts on local communities, a study by environmental campaigners has found. European laws designed to help protect communities from noise impacts now demand large airports – as well as roads, railways and built-up areas – to draw up ‘action plans’ for tackling their noise pollution. But campaigners say that the plans written by airports mainly just restate what they already have to do to comply with, local planning requirements, or, at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, because of rules put in place by the Government.

The Aviation Environment Federation, a campaign group representing people living near the UK’s airports and airfields, has reviewed all the airport draft noise action plans and concluded that not one meets all the requirements of the EC law. The Government now has to decide whether to accept the plans or to send them back.

AEF Deputy Director Cait Weston said:

“We weren’t expecting great things from the noise action plans. The demands made by the regulation are pretty flimsy. There’s no standard set for what noise is unacceptable, for example – unless there are restrictions imposed by the planning authority or by the Government, airports can decide that for themselves. And airports will also be in charge of monitoring the effectiveness of their actions. So they can pretty much say what they like in these plans.

“So what surprised us was the extent to which airports have failed even to comply with the weak demands of the EU’s legislation. Airports had to make ‘noise maps’, for example, and base their action plans on the maps. But most have just repeated whatever actions they were taking before producing the maps. At Heathrow, the noise maps produced under the EC law show 725,500 people in the affected area, but the actions the airport has proposed to deal with noise relate to the 57 Decibel contour, which covers only 258,500 people. It’s a massive difference.”

In 2007 the Government published the results of a seven-year study into aircraft noise and annoyance which found that even though individual aircraft have become quieter, people are more annoyed by aircraft noise now than they were in the 1980s, when the previous study was conducted.

Meanwhile there is a growing body of evidence to show that living near an airport is bad for your health. Academics have found that long term exposure to night noise from aircraft significantly increases risk of high blood pressure, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. A study commissioned by the German Environment Agency found that women living under flight paths face a 93% higher rate of hospitalization with cardiovascular problems compared with their counterparts in quiet residential areas and that those exposed to jet noise of about 60 decibels during the day are 172% more likely to suffer a stroke.


  1. The AEF’s report, New style, old story: a review of airport noise action plans, is available here.
  2. Work on the effects of night noise was published by the HYENA project (HYpertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports) in 2008. Jarup L et al, Hypertension and Exposure to Noise near Airports – the HYENA study. Environ Health Perspect 2008; 116:329-33. See
  3. Results of the study commissioned by the German Environment Agency were published in Time Magazine on 15th December 2009. See,28804,1929071_1929070_1947782,00.html#ixzz0egH0IJv7

For more information, please contact Cait Weston, Deputy Director of the Aviation Environment Federation, on 0207 248 2223, or