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.
At the ANCF’s 2023 Annual General Meeting, held on 31 January 2023, it was agreed that we would focus on the issues below. Information on the work we’re doing in each area is available in the subheadings below, and we’ll update members through biannual Forum meetings and quarterly newsletters.
Noise policy and regulation (including night flights, and the framework/processes for airspace modernisation)
Health impacts – Contribute to the development of a stronger framework for aircraft noise health impact research and its translation into policy
It was also agreed that we should seek wider support for stronger noise policy and regulation and do more to share good practice/lessons e.g. expansion inquiries, noise envelopes, noise action plans, and we’ll be focusing on both those areas throughout the year
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 the government should reform the current system, and submitted it to to DfT last year.
There’s been little meaningful progress in the last year, but the Minister has committed to consulting on updated arrangements in 2023. We continue to press DfT officials and the Aviation Minister to implement the “stronger, clearer” aircraft noise policy the government committed to in the 2018 aviation Green Paper, Aviation 2050 and will keep members updated on progress.
Find out more about noise issues and AEF’s work to address it.
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.
DfT has finally agreed to set up a group to consider these ideas (which will be a sub-group of its Airspace and Noise Engagement Group). We’ll be engaging with that as soon as possible and will keep members updated on progress.
We’ve met the chair of the CAA’s new Environmental Sustainability Panel and continue to liaise with its own environmental team. We’ve also engaged with the CAA’s Chair and CEO. We’re disappointed that the Panel appears to be little more than an inward–facing quality control mechanism focused on the very few areas in which the CAA has an environmental role or is asked to carry out work. It appears to have virtually no appetite to determine its own work programme or speak out on critical environmental issues.
We will continue to make the case for genuinely independent advice to government on aircraft noise issues, as recommended by the Airports Commission amongst others, and comment on that below.
More positively we are involved, alongside other groups, in commenting on the on-going research projects into night flight noise and aircraft noise generally.
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.
On behalf of ANCF, AEF responded to the Government’s consultation on night-time noise abatement objectives for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted from October 2025. Our response can be read here.
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.
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 the 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. We’ve engaged extensively with DfT and the CAA on the issues set out in that letter and expect to raise many of them with Ministers again shortly.
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.
Airport Expansion Opposition Southampton
Aircraft Noise Action Group
Aircraft noise 3 villages
Association of Parish Councils Aviation Group (APCAG)
Belfast City Airport Watch
Bristol Airport Action Network
Campaign against the expansion of Liverpool John Lennon Airport
Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emissions (CAGNE)
Community Campaign (Hart)
Community Alternatives to Luton’s Flight Path (CALF)
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
Flight Free UK
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)
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
Residents Against Aircraft Noise
Richmond Heathrow Campaign
Save Oglet Shore and Green Belt
St Albans Quieter Skies
Stansted Airport Watch
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