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Government noise policy still missing the point

The government’s long-awaited Noise Policy Statement for England was published last week, setting out aims for noise management to be taken into account in government decision making. Yet the policy seems to have been designed to avoid having any real impact.

Campaigners have been calling for many years for a noise strategy and Defra had previously committed to publishing one. Given budget constraints, we are told, the ‘statement’ has been introduced as an alternative.

While AEF welcomes a requirement for noise impacts to be considered in all government decisions, some crucial elements are missing from this statement, such as the acknowledgment of noise problems and the setting of targets to tackle them.

People in the UK are more annoyed by aircraft noise then they were in the past, a similar pattern is being witnessed across Europe and aircraft noise has been shown to have significant impacts on cardiovascular health. Yet the government’s approach lacks any strategy or any measurable outcomes, such as limit values for acceptable noise or targets for noise reduction, stating only that decisions should be made ‘in the context of sustainable development’.

AEF will continue to press for the introduction of noise policies that give meaningful protection to people around the UK’s airports and airfields whose health and wellbeing is undermined by aircraft noise.

At the same time as announcing the noise policy statement, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hillary Benn, approved 25 noise action plans, for ‘agglomerations’, roads and railways. Airport noise plans have yet to be approved, though most have now been submitted to government following consultation. AEF recently met with representatives of Defra and DfT to discuss our concerns about how the draft plans failed to meet legal requirements, as set out in our report New style, old story: a review of UK airport noise action plans.