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AEF hosts seminar on national airspace and Heathrow

12th May, 2017

With several consultations open that will determine the direction of airspace and environmental policy for aviation in the coming years, AEF hosted a seminar in late April for communities to better understand the Government’s plans and help shape AEF’s response. Over 50 people gathered at SCI in London’s Belgrave Square to hear presentations from AEF staff, and from the No 3rd Runway coalition, community groups, and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The focus of the day was the Department for Transport’s consultation on reforming UK airspace. In response to widespread public outcry over changes to flight paths in recent years, new approaches are proposed to the classification of airspace changes, the assessment of noise, metrics, and compensation. An independent commission on aircraft noise, ICCAN is also proposed to be created. While many of these changes are welcomed by communities, at least cautiously, the meeting identified many areas where improvements could be made and these will be reflected in our consultation response. Attendees greatly appreciated participation from the Department for Transport in the last session of the day, during which AEF provided a summary of the feedback on these issues.

This policy rethink has been prompted largely by community protests. Local experiences have also highlighted the inadequacies of the existing consultation process for airspace change. We reported last year on the CAA’s intention to improve this process, and recently it launched a new consultation on its airspace change guidance, with specific proposals to provide better information to communities and improved opportunities for engagement. The new draft guidance was the theme of the CAA’s presentation to the meeting.

Earlier in the day, AEF’s Cait Hewitt and the No 3rd Runway coalition had outlined the Government’s plans for the draft airports National Policy Statement, a process that is set to conclude with a Parliamentary vote, probably in early 2018. Click on the links to read AEF’s initial reaction to this document that will, if passed, lock in parliamentary approval for a third runway at Heathrow, and the AEF’s response to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into the same issue.

The event was also topical coming just a day after AEF attended a major European Commission conference on the health impacts of noise and transport where Commissioner Karmenu Vella stressed that in terms of environmental pollutants, noise has the second biggest public health impact in Europe after air pollution. A common response from communities attending the AEF event was the need for health-based noise objectives, so the World Health Organisation’s announcement that it will soon be publishing its revised community noise guidelines was a particularly timely message to come out of the Brussels event.