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Airports & Noise Action Plans

Under the terms of the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006, DEFRA requires all airport operators to produce an Airport Noise Action Plan; this amounts to a legal obligation. Plans need to be developed to manage noise arising from aircraft using each airport; DEFRA's guidance is available from www.defra.gov.uk.

Legal requirements arise from the Environmental Noise Directive (END) 2002/49/EC which was transposed into English Law by the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006 and the Environmental Noise (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008.

DEFRA's March 2009 Guidance is available to download as a PDF from the DEFRA website.

DEFRA's May 2009 consultation response is available to downlaod from the DEFRA website and this consultation specifically relates to environmental noise generated by airports.

DEFRA's guidance covers the requirements to develop Action Plans designed to manage noise issues and effects arising from aircraft departing from and arriving at their airport, including noise reduction if necessary. It also covers the reporting of the Action Plan. Action Plans have to be developed in the context of the existing regulatory background and must include a description and assessment of the existing framework of control relating to noise from the airport. In particular airport operators have been given statutory powers to introduce noise control schemes and fine aircraft operators for any of their departures that breach noise controls.

Action Plans must be drawn up by the airport operators that were required to produce strategic noise maps under the Regulations. Action Plans must be produced based on the results of the noise mapping. For the purposes of the Regulations, these operators are the competent authorities in relation to airport Action Plans. These operators must draw up an Action Plan every five years, based on the results of the noise mapping. The Regulations also require the Action Plans to be reviewed from time to time and revised if necessary and whenever a major development occurs affecting the existing noise situation.

Noise Action Plans need to be constructed with a view to preventing and reducing environmental noise where necessary and particularly where exposure levels can induce harmful effects on human health and to preserving environmental noise quality where it is good. The Noise Action Plan must be designed to manage noise issues and effects, including noise reduction if necessary.

In line with the Air Transport White Paper commitments of limiting, and where possible reducing the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise, Government policy has been to concentrate departing aircraft along the least possible number of departure routes consistent with airspace management considerations and the overriding need for safety. This has resulted in the establishment of Noise Preferential Routes (NPRs).

Where appropriate, airport operators are advised by DEFRA to investigate opportunities for protecting quiet areas in general using ameliorative measures, such as more sophisticated flight path management. Care, however, needs to be taken to avoid adding environmental burdens on more densely populated areas. Government airspace policy guidance places a high value on the legacy of planning decisions and the location of noise sensitive development. This includes the importance of long-term stability of aircraft route structures in the vicinity of airports, since people need to know where significant aircraft noise will be experienced.

An Airport Action Plan must at least include the following elements:

  • A description of the airport and any other noise sources taken into account;
  • The authority responsible;
  • The legal context;
  • Any limit values in place;
  • A summary of the results of the noise mapping;
  • An evaluation of the estimated number of people exposed to noise, identification of problems and situations that need to be improved;
  • A record of the public consultations organised in accordance with Article 8(7);
  • Any noise reduction measures already in force and any projects in preparation;
  • Actions which the airport operator intends to take in the next five years, including measures to preserve quiet areas;
  • Long term strategy;
  • Financial information (if available): budgets, cost-effectiveness assessment, cost-benefit assessment;
  • Provisions envisaged for evaluating the implementation and the results of the Action Plan.

The Action Plan should contain estimates in terms of the reduction of the number of people affected (annoyed, sleep disturbed, or other).

As part of the action planning process, Airport Operators should:

  • As a first priority, consider what further measures should be taken in areas shown by the noise maps to have residential premises exposed to more than 69 dB LAeq,16h37;
  • More generally, examine the day, evening and night results produced from the noise mapping and consider whether there are any features of the noise impact from departing or arriving aircraft that might be managed further;
  • Ensure that there is an effective complaint handling system in place;
  • Consider the information from any noise complaint data that is held and whether there are any measures that might be taken to manage further the aircraft noise impact;
  • Respond to any feedback from Consultative Committees on particular issues that might be addressed;
  • Consider whether other new noise abatement objectives might be developed with the aim of providing further management of the noise impact;
  • Reflect the International Civil Aviation Organisation's balanced approach for noise management as implemented into UK legislation through Statutory Instrument 2003/174238 including pro-actively engaging with the land-use planning process;
  • Consider the opportunities for the protection of quiet areas both in agglomerations and in general in accordance with paragraphs 2.09 and 2.10 above;
  • Consider any other measures that might reasonably contribute to meeting the objectives set out in paragraphs 3.06 - 3.08 above.

The Regulations require the Airport Operator to consult the public when preparing and revising Action Plans.

Where a Consultative Committee exists, Airport Operators should engage with it in the development of the Draft Noise Action Plan. Airport Operators should also liaise with the local planning authority and other local authorities affected by the airport, as well as NATS and airline operators. Operators may also wish to consult local amenity groups with whom they would normally engage over airport issues. If no Consultative Committee exists, the Airport Operator should make arrangements to liaise with representatives involved with the airport, including airline operators, NATS, the local planning authority, other local and regional authorities affected by the airport, any relevant local or national pressure groups and any relevant local amenity groups.

Public Participation

In preparing and revising Action Plans Airport Operators must ensure that:

  • The public is consulted about proposals for Action Plans;
  • The public is given early and effective opportunities to participate in the preparation and review of the Action Plans;
  • The results of the public participation are taken into account;
  • The public is informed of the decisions taken; and
  • Reasonable time frames are provided allowing sufficient time for each stage of public participation.

The Draft Noise Action Plan and accompanying summary needs to be sent to the Secretary of State for Transport and copied to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. These documents must continue to include prominently displayed wording identifying them as a draft subject to formal adoption and approval by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Once adopted by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Noise Action Plan should be published by the Airport Operator as a public document in an electronic format, within 28 days of being informed that the Noise Action Plan has been adopted. The summary document will be made available in both electronic and paper formats in the same timescale.

It should be noted that, under the terms of Regulation 26 of the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006, the Secretary of State has the power to take action should he believe that a requirement of these Regulations is not being met due to any act or omission by the Airport Operator.

Schedule of Airports which produced noise maps in the first round of noise mapping
Airport ICAO Location Code
Birmingham International* EGBB
Blackpool Squire's Gate* EGNH
Bournemouth* EGHH
Bristol Lulsgate* EGGD
Coventry EGBE
Leeds Bradford* EGNM
Liverpool John Lennon* EGNH
London City* EGLC
London Gatwick* EGKK
London Heathrow* EGLL
London Luton* EGGW
London Stansted* EGSS
Manchester International* EGCC
Newcastle International* EGNT
East Midlands* EGNX
Shoreham EGKA
Southampton Eastleigh* EGHI
Southend EGMC