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A new round of airport Noise Action Plans – what to expect

Every five years (known as “rounds”), major airports are required to revise existing plans that identify noise impacts, and ways to manage them. The plans – Noise Action Plans (NAPs) – are drawn up for areas identified as being impacted by noise from aircraft arrivals and departures. Currently, Round 3 NAP revisions should be underway at 17 airports. To view a map showing the airports, please click here.

Legislation and policy

NAPs – and five-yearly revisions to them – are a requirement of the Environmental Noise Directive (END) 2002/49/EC which was transposed into the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended).

Under the regulations, when airport operators revise their NAPs, they must first create noise maps using data collected from the previous year. The purpose of the maps is to provide a “snapshot” of the potential noise impact arising from aircraft arrivals and departures. Once this has been done, airport operators should identify whether there are any particular or additional measures that might be taken to address noise impacts – including noise reduction. The NAP is then revised accordingly.

It’s useful to note that the legislation also requires revisions to NAPs where a major development occurs that impacts the existing noise situation.

Revised NAPs are submitted to Defra’s Secretary of State and, if they comply with the regulations, they are formally adopted. Under the regulations, the Secretary of State has the power to take action should s/he believe that their requirements are not being met. Adopted NAPs must then be published by a given date.

However, in forming a decision about submitted NAPs, Defra’s Secretary of State also has to make a decision in line with UK policy. Current UK policy, set out in the Department for Transport’s new Air Regulation Guidance, is “to limit and where possible reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise.”  For this reason, the process to adopt a NAP usually allows for input from the Secretary of State for Transport.

In the official guidance on NAPs Defra lists some of the potential negative impacts of exposure to aviation noise, such as increased risk of heart attacks, hypertension (a risk factor for stroke and dementia), and the risks associated with sleep disturbance.

But Defra also stresses that air travel has a number of benefits to be weighed against these potential health impacts:

Noise … is an inevitable consequence of a mature and vibrant society. People enjoy and benefit from air transport and this benefit manifests itself in terms of business, leisure, the movement of goods and employment.

Consequently, Defra emphasises that a balance has to be struck between the positive and negative impacts of benefits of air travel.

The process for Round 3 NAP revisions

Stakeholder Investment

Airport operators are required to consult with those potentially impacted by noise from aircraft arrivals and departures. In addition, they may decide to carry out an informal review of the progress being made towards adoption and implementation of their revised NAPs as part of this stakeholder engagement.

So, if you are impacted by arrival or departure noise from one of the major airports on Defra’s list, consider asking the airport operator for information about their:

  • arrangements for public consultations
  • existing noise reductions measures and noise reduction projects in preparation
  • long-terms strategies
  • planned actions over the next five years
  • provisions for implementing the revised NAP
  • evaluation and accountability post-implementation arrangements – how on-going progress towards the commitments will be monitored and reported
  • estimates of the reduction in the number of people impacted by noise as a result of the plan

It is worth referring to the latest version of Defra’s Airport Noise Action Plans: Guidance for Airport Operators on how to revise Noise Action Plans under the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006 (as amended). Defra has told us it is currently unable to publish the full NAPs guide on their website due to technical reasons. However, you can access the full guide on AEF’s website here.

Please note that, while we have attempted to provide contact details of the Round 3 NAP airports on our map, we recommend accessing the relevant airport’s website for full and up-to-date information.