The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today published a new report arguing that the aviation industry’s plans to manage noise fall short of what would be needed to secure permission for new runways.
The report, ‘Managing Aviation Noise’, is being promoted by the CAA as a call to arms for the aviation industry on noise. It emphasises that noise is one of the biggest challenges to airport expansion, particularly in the UK where more people are affected by aircraft noise than in any other country in Europe. The industry ‘noise roadmap’ is criticised for being insufficiently ambitious and failing to deliver the Government’s objective of limiting and reducing aircraft noise, with the CAA arguing that the number of people exposed to aviation noise should be reduced and not just stabilised.
Airlines should do more, according to the report, by buying quieter aircraft, and airports should structure landing charges to promote the use of less noisy planes. None of these suggestions are new, however, and the industry is likely to argue that it is already taking significant action on noise. The report therefore recommends that if other options fail, Government should consider a noise tax to add greater incentive.
The report also says that airports should do more to ensure that communities feel benefits from airport expansion through funding community schemes, direct payments or tax breaks. A significant increase in spending on noise should accompany any airport expansion, it is argued, since airports in the UK do not spend anywhere near the same level on noise mitigation as other countries in the EU and the US. The report, however, does not comment on the latest compensation plans from Heathrow and Gatwick.
To further community involvement, the CAA recommends a new Airport Community Engagement Forum to bring together local residents, the aviation industry, policy makers and planners to come up with practical solutions to minimise the impacts of airport expansion. This could be viewed as a CAA-led alternative to the independent noise ombudsman recently recommended by the Airports Commission.
AEF would welcome constructive engagement between airports and local communities, as many of our members have concerns about the effectiveness of the ‘consultative committees’ that currently fulfil this role. Any forum based on the idea that local communities must accept expansion in order for airports to work constructively with them is unlikely to be widely supported by the people already affected by unacceptable noise levels.