Government proposes new noise law for airports

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), has published a consultation document, outlining proposals to establish and enforce noise amelioration schemes for civil aircraft, and to change the powers of the Secretary of State, local authorities and aerodromes.

The consultation paper is a follow-up to the 1998 integrated transport policy White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better For Everyone, which stressed that legislation would be required to implement powers such as enabling local authorities to enforce noise control.

The proposals include powers for aerodromes to establish and enforce a system of noise management, consistent with flight safety, possibly including control of ground noise, and also including provisions for dispute resolution (see related story). The document requests suggestions from interested parties on how a local authority might oblige an aerodrome to implement an amelioration scheme, as well as what sanctions should be made available. The Government also proposes changing the power for fixing charges for using licensed aerodromes, linking them to noise factors, and supports limited changes to the powers providing for the regulation of noise and vibration from aircraft while they are in the air.

Schemes could include requirements for pilots to use certain landing or take-off procedures, or could limit the number of occasions on which aircraft, or certain types of aircraft, could use an aerodrome.

The document also includes a proposal to repeal the power to impose a duty on the Civil Aviation Authority to consider environmental factors when licensing certain aerodromes, allowing them to focus more on safety issues.

The legislation is intended to encourage current good practice to become more widespread, according to the Government, and as such means that compliance costs for a typical aerodrome are likely to be minimal. However, it is admitted that the implementation of a whole new set of noise mitigation measures could result in annual costs of up to £20,000-£50,000 per year.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” John Stewart, Chairman of HACAN ClearSkies (the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) told edie, welcoming the powers for local authorities over aircraft noise. The consultation should lead on to the production of a noise strategy for the whole country so that the problem of noise is no longer dealt with bit by bit, said Stewart.

The association claims to be the world’s largest anti noise group, and, earlier this year, it took the UK government to the European Court of Human Rights over excessive aircraft noise (see related story).

Stewart points out that the consultation document raises questions as to how many aerodromes will be affected, and whether small airfields will also be included. “Increasingly, the old RAF fields are becoming commercial air fields, and are becoming quite noisy and disturbing,” he said.

Persistent loud noise can be very stressful, according to Stewart. “It can come to dominate your life. You get all the symptoms of a stress-related illness.” Problems from noise can arise through living under a flight path, right down to living beside an electric power station, which produces a continuous hum.

The consultation paper is being sent to organisations representing the aviation industry, as well as those who stand for the interests of people who live near airports, but will also be made available to anyone on request. Responses should arrive by Friday 13 October 2000, and should be sent to: Mr Geoff Finch, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Aviation Environmental Division 4, Zone 1/33, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR; Fax: 020 7944 2189; email: [email protected].

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