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Airspace and Noise Community Forum

AEF’s Airspace and Noise Community Forum

AEF’s Airspace and Noise Community Forum was established in January 2022 to work with communities adversely impacted by aircraft noise and airspace change.

It works to identify issues of common concern and to engage constructively with government, regulators and industry, focussing on national policy and matters of regulation.

Participation in the Forum is open to all campaign groups and individuals who share AEF’s aims. If you’d like to apply to join please contact the Forum at ANCF@aef.org.uk or info@aef.org.uk

Documents 

Terms of reference

2022 priorities

The Forum’s 2022 priorities were agreed at its inaugural meeting on 12 January 2022. Information on the work we’re doing in these areas is available in the subheadings below, and we’ll update members through biannual Forum meetings and quarterly newsletters. An Annual General Meeting will also be held to reflect on our work.   

Noise policy and regulation

Health impacts

Night flights

Airspace modernisation

Independent advice to government

Noise policy and regulation

The Forum surveyed its members on local aircraft noise regulation and enforcement matters in January 2022, receiving well over 30 responses covering most of the main UK airports. Based on that feedback, it’s clear that current regulatory regimes are ineffective in numerous respects and that extensive reform is needed. 

We’ve produced a paper that sets out the key issues and suggests ways government should reform the current system. This has been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) for discussion in a workshop in February 2022.  We’ll be following up our proposals with DfT officials and other stakeholders, and will keep members updated on progress. 

Find out more about noise issues and AEF’s work to address it.

Health impacts

AEF has focused on the health impacts of aviation noise for many years.

There is currently no process by which research into the health impacts of aircraft noise is reviewed and translated into policy and regulation. As a result, many years can pass without research being assessed and used to update policy. For example, the WHO’s 2018 Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region have not yet been assessed. There is also no process by which the government considers gaps in the evidence base and commissions new research to address them.  

Since mid-2021 we’ve been asking the DfT, Defra and Public Health England (now the UK Health Security Agency) to develop and implement a process to independently review research into the health impacts of aircraft noise and formally advise the government on desirable changes to policy, regulation or guidance.

We believe this could be modelled on the process by which the Climate Change Committee advises government on climate change issues, but without statutory force at this stage. It would bring greater transparency to the way noise research is translated into policy and regulation, and more proactivity into the commissioning of research where there are gaps in the evidence.  

We will be raising this again with DfT and will keep members updated on progress.  

Night flights

Community groups and AEF have long argued that night flights, other than for emergency and humanitarian purposes, should be banned at all UK airports, for a full eight hour period. 

We’ve also said that, if any night flights are to be permitted, their number and impacts should be regulated far more robustly than they are now at all airports. Our position was set out in a letter to the Aviation Minister at the outset of the most recent night flights consultation, here.

Following a DfT workshop in December 2021 we have continued to engage with officials on future night flight arrangements and on the work that needs to be done to assess their impacts properly.  

Airspace modernisation

It currently appears likely that airspace modernisation will deliver substantial benefits for the industry, but few for communities and the environment.

Although modernisation may have the potential to reduce noise on a per-flight basis, those benefits are likely to be modest. They may also be substantially outweighed by noise from additional flights from a significant increase in capacity that modernisation will enable.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) airspace change process, through which modernisation will primarily be delivered, is currently likely to reinforce this pro-industry bias because the law requires it to prioritise the efficient use of airspace over environmental objectives whenever the two are in conflict.  

Through their representation on the government’s Airspace Strategy Board, the AEF and the Forum have been seeking changes that would achieve more balanced outcomes. These include clearer policy, amended legal objectives and proper regulation of the asserted benefits of modernisation.  

Our letter in response to the CAA’s draft Airspace Modernisation Strategy 2022-2040 can be found here.

Independent advice to government

The Airports Commission recommended that an independent aviation noise authority should be established. It said that it must be “a truly independent, trusted, presence, accountable to the public through Parliament”. It advised that the body should be given statutory consultee status, a formal role in monitoring and quality assuring all aviation noise processes, and the power to intervene where it finds organisations have breached due process.

When the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was set up in 2019 it had few of the attributes the Commission had recommended. Specifically it had no powers, no formal roles, no statutory backing and no ability to enforce its recommendations.

Nonetheless, government and DfT statements at the time committed that ICCAN would, amongst other things:

– Give communities a greater stake in processes which propose to make noise changes

– Ensure such processes better and more transparently balance the needs of all parties

– Provide greater public confidence in noise data published by industry and the impartiality of the airspace change process

– Require the industry to enhance its approach to assessing and mitigating noise impacts and engaging communities

– Be instrumental in ensuring that the needs of local communities are properly taken into account when considering the noise impacts of any airport expansion.

With ICCAN’s closure there is no longer an independent voice on aviation noise matters. We believe that must be addressed urgently. AEF, together with many airport community groups, wrote to the Aviation Minister when it was announced that ICCAN would be closed to express its surprise and disappointment. It also proposed key actions and changes that would need to accompany any transfer of roles to the CAA if it was to command the confidence of adversely impacted communities. 

That letter is available here.  

In the immediate future the CAA and its new Sustainability Panel will undertake much of ICCAN’s work. We have been engaging with the CAA in relation to the terms of reference of the Panel, the work programme it will undertake and its funding. Details in all these areas are awaited and we will update members as we hear more.

Member Organisations

Airportwatch 

Airport Expansion Opposition Southampton 

Aircraft Noise Action Group

Aircraft noise 3 villages 

Association of Parish Councils Aviation Group (APCAG)

AXO Southampton

Belfast City Airport Watch

Bristol Airport Action Network 

Campaign against the expansion of Liverpool John Lennon Airport

Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE)

Chobham Society

Community Campaign (Hart)

Community Alternatives to Luton’s Flight Path (CALF) 

CPRE Surrey

CPRE Sussex

Ealing Aircraft Noise Action Group

East Sussex Communities for the Control of Air Noise (ESCCAN) 

Edinburgh Airport Watch

Englefield Green Action Group (EGAG)

Farnborough Aerodrome Residents Association

Farnborough Noise

Flight Free UK

Flightpath Watch

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC)

Gatwick Obviously Not

Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA)

Heathrow Association for the Control of Air Noise (HACAN)

HACAN East

Heald Green Ratepayers’ Association

High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group 

Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN)

London Borough of Bromley Residents’ Association

London Luton Airport Town and Village Community Committee (LLATVC)

Lydd Airport Action Group

Melbourne Civic Society

No 3rd Runway Coalition

North West Leeds Transport Forum

Nutfield Conservation Society

People Against Aircraft Intrusive Noise (PAIN)

Parish Councils Airport Association

People Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (PAGNE)

Plane Hell Action

Plane Justice 

Plane Wrong

Residents Against Aircraft Noise

Richmond Heathrow Campaign

Save Oglet Shore and Green Belt

St Albans Quieter Skies

Stansted Airport Watch

Stay Grounded

Stop Airport Expansion and Noise (SAEN)

Stop Bristol Airport Expansion

Stop Heathrow Expansion

Stop Manchester Airport

Teddington Action Group

Tunbridge Wells Anti Aircraft Noise Group (TWAANG)

Tunbridge Wells Aircraft Noise Study Group 

West London FoE

Whitecrook Aircraft Noise Association