The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) had criticised in July the Commissions original proposal for protection against noise pollution as being insufficiently broad in its scope (see related story), and are now disappointed that Parliament has failed to improve the directive, or to agree a timetable of action for anything except airports.

“Parliamentarians are incoherent over noise,” said Beatrice Schell, Director of T&E. “On the one hand they have previously called for strong limits to aviation noise, and have now backed the general principle of setting limits; but on the other hand, they have passed up the opportunity to actually adopt even mild limits for airports. And they have failed to address noise from other sources at all.”

However, the two organisations are pleased that Parliament supports the concept of maximum noise limits; have given citizens otherwise not covered by the legislation the right to complain, and to have these complaints taken seriously; and that the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) set a timetable for dealing with the problem of airport noise (see related story).

Nevertheless, without the enlargement of the directive the legislation has been rendered virtually meaningless, say the environmentalists. “MEP’s did not dare to make the quality jump which would have made the Commission’s proposal an effective instrument,” stated John Hontelez, Secretary General of the EEB. “And MEPs have refused to tighten definitions, which means large swathes of Europe’s citizens, especially in towns or rural areas, are excluded from the scope of the Directive.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested noise limits to promote human health, which the Parliament originally supported in September, and the Portuguese and Spanish governments called for noise quality targets in October.

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