Skip to content

Missed AEF’s AGM and Noise Seminar? Here’s what we covered

On Thursday 23rd November, we held our AGM and Noise Seminar for AEF members, with guest speaker Nic Stevenson from the CAA presenting the results so far from its ongoing aircraft noise survey, followed by an AEF-led discussion on the latest on the World Health Organisation’s Community Noise Guidelines.

Here’s a summary of the topics discussed:

AEF amends aims and objectives

After more than 30 years, we have decided to make a few tweaks to our founding aims and objectives, without changing the focus of the organisation’s work, in order to make them clearer and more up-to-date. These were approved at our AGM. The new aims and objectives can be found below.

AEF’s aim is:

to protect the environment, public health and quality of life through securing policies and measures that ensure effective limits on noise, emissions and other environmental impacts from the aviation sector

To further this aim, our objectives are:

  • to seek effective legislation, policies and other measures by working with local, national and international policy-making and legislative bodies
  • to promote practical solutions through consultation and co-operation with AEF members, regulatory and public bodies, the aviation industry, and others
  • to support our members and affected communities in liaising with decision-makers andother stakeholders
  • to provide advice, analysis and information
  • to publicise and promote the role and responsibilities of the Federation

CAA gives update on Noise Survey so far

Setting the scene, the CAA introduced the 2014 SoNA study, commissioned by the Department for Transport, which surveyed 2000 people across nine airports in England, and found that the proportion of those ‘highly annoyed’ by aircraft noise at the same noise level has increased between 1982 and 2014, with 9% annoyed at the 57 LAeq threshold in 1982, compared with 13% today.

A large proportion of the CAA’s respondents to its Strategic Plan 2016 – 2020 consultation were residents, who felt that the environment did not feature adequately in the CAA work programme, and challenged the CAA to identify those who have the powers to challenge the aviation industry, if this is not currently within the CAA’s remit.

Following the issues highlighted by residents to this consultation, and others to revise the airspace change process, the CAA committed to undertaking ‘an internal review of opportunities to influence noise management that are within existing powers and activities’. Its purpose was to answer following questions:

  1. What regulatory and policy levers currently exist (or are forthcoming) for the CAA to influence aviation noise performance?
  2. Should the CAA take a leadership role in aviation noise management?
  3. If we believe other powers or duties are necessary, what are they?

The review is to be informed by an online survey aimed at those impacted by aircraft noise. The survey opened on July 7th and will close on January 5th 2018.

Here’s an overview of the results after one month (from the first 1759 respondents):

  • Over 30% of the respondents said that they were affected by noise from Heathrow Airport. Approximately 6% said that they don’t know which airport they are impacted by (this could be helicopters, more than one airport, or that the airport was not made available in the dropdown menu). Some members expressed surprise that more responses hadn’t been received from their local aerodrome. But while responses are still encouraged, it was highlighted that the purpose of the survey was to identify how the CAA was using its powers rather than to comment on the noise issue in specific geographical areas.
  • Approximately three quarters of all respondents said that they were most impacted by noise from commercial airlines, with 9% affected by helicopter noise.
  • Almost 35% of respondents said that they had ‘been annoyed’ by aircraft noise for over two years, and almost 10% for less than six months.
  • Over 600 of the 1759 respondents said that one of their key concerns was ‘aircraft numbers increasing without being able to have a say’, and thought the CAA should tackle this as a first priority, with ‘aircraft flying lower than they should be’ falling second, as well as late night and early morning flights, and helicopter noise also in the top five.
  • Other issues raised by respondents included changes to aircraft routes, feeling frustrated and problem with helicopter noise.
  • During the Q&A, the use of the term ‘annoyance’ was discussed, and in light of the growing evidence of the link between aircraft noise and health, AEF members proposed that stronger terminology should be used.

Next steps?

During 2018, the CAA will examine how they might be able to better act to reduce noise or annoyance, and if they currently have the powers in order to do so or would need new powers. The results of the survey will be published, and will provide the key input into the CAA’s review.

WHO Community Noise Guidelines: Why the delay?

The WHO was expected to release its latest community noise guidelines in 2017, which recommend maximum exposure levels to avoid health-based impacts from noise sources including aviation. Those close to the process suggest that this will be delayed until 2018 not least because of internal discussions on the appropriate degree of stringency. In short, should we be basing future action on more attainable levels that will be taken seriously by governments and industry? This was the question debated at the AGM. While both sides of the debate were appreciated, the general conclusion was that the evidence needed to be presented clearly. If there is a need to address political acceptability, this could be achieved by retaining long-term, science-based goals while allowing some flexibility with interim targets.