The first-ever summit to discuss solutions to aircraft noise is taking place today (Tuesday, March 11).
It is being staged collaboratively by London First, Let Britain Fly and Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN).
Leaders representing both sides of the argument are coming together to discuss the key elements of the issue.
The focal point is a call to all political parties to create the role of independent aircraft noise ombudsman (ANO) to protect the welfare of people living near airports and participants are being invited to put their names to a campaign statement.
The timing of this initiative is critical. During the autumn, the business group London First advocated the appointment of the watchdog, winning backing from a diverse range of stakeholders, including Stop Stansted Expansion, the London Assembly, HACAN and Virgin Atlantic.
The interim Davies Commission report, published in December, echoed the call for the ombudsman role and the Government is due to respond over the coming weeks.
Gavin Hayes, director of Let Britain Fly, said: “It’s vitally important to do everything possible to enhance the quality of life of all of those who live around Britain’s airports.
“I therefore warmly welcome the commitment of all participants to work together for the wider good.
“The summit is perfectly timed. There is a golden opportunity to ensure that aircraft noise is managed more effectively, progressively reducing it and the number of people it affects.
“We believe that the Government must seize this opportunity. We therefore call on them to create the role of the aircraft noise ombudsman, and for the other main political parties to support that process.”
Commenting on the summit, John Stewart, chairman of HACAN, said: “I’m delighted that the entire aviation community is coming together for the summit. This initiative is long overdue, and therefore one which I welcome hugely.
“This is the first time that organisations from all points of the spectrum in the debate on aircraft noise have cooperated in this way to find solutions.
“That debate has for many years been challenging, complex and, regrettably, fraught. We believe that the time has come for a fresh start to efforts to break the deadlock.”
Letter to Guardian from Heathrow critics & supporters asking for aircraft noise ombudsman
Date added: March 11, 2014
The noise from planes using Heathrow airport is a huge issue, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Noise at other airports is equally a serious problem for those affected. Over decades, local communities have had little reason to trust the airports and the authorities (a recent example being the unannounced flight path trial over Warnham, from Gatwick). Aircraft noise is considered to be an unfortunate side effect of the alleged benefits of a growing aviation sector, with those affected being necessary “collateral damage” of this industry. The Airports Commission, in its interim report in December, recommended the setting up of an independent noise authority which would be able to deal with noise issues. Now a letter, supporting the establishment of an Ombudsman, has been sent to the Guardian, signed by a long list of notable people, including many opponents of a 3rd Heathrow runway. The letter hopes the Ombudsman may establish more “trust and confidence.” However, no amount of liaison, consultation etc will actually make the amount of noise diminish, which is what most people who suffer from aircraft noise actually want. There are fears that the new body will be “long grass into which difficult issues could be consigned.”
See earlier- by contrast – from GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)
Concerns about the effectiveness of a new aviation noise authority – and the public’s trust in it
March 4, 2014
In its interim report published on 17th December 2013, the Airports Commission recommended to government “… the establishment of an Independent Noise Authority to provide expert and impartial advice about the noise impacts of aviation and to facilitate the delivery of future improvements to airspace operations.” GACC – the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign – has responded to this suggestion with a lot of caveats. GACC would welcome the authority if its main purpose is to reduce aircraft noise, but not if its main purpose is to persuade local residents to relax their opposition to a new runway at Gatwick. Residents want the noise to be reduced, not ‘mitigating’, and not ‘reducing the number of people affected’ if that means merely making noise worse for fewer people. . There have been years of unsatisfactory complaints mechanisms on aircraft noise, and also of broken assurances from the aviation industry. “A single point for complaints, an aircraft noise ombudsman with power to order improvement or compensation, would be welcome. But we do not see this in the recommendations of the Commission’s Interim Report.” There are fears that the new body will be “long grass into which difficult issues could be consigned.” A body designed to smooth the path of a new runway, whether at Gatwick or elsewhere would be vigorously opposed.
and concerns have also been expressed by SSE (Stop Stansted Expansion):
SSE also declined to sign the joint declaration although they have always supported the establishment of an independent noise watchdog provided he has real powers to set and enforce standards.
Whilst supporting the principle, SSE chose not to attend yesterday’s ‘Noise Summit’ and not to sign the joint declaration. This was because the pro-expansion groups ‘Let Britain Fly’, ‘London First’ and ‘Runways UK’ had orchestrated yesterday’s events and SSE were concerned that they viewed the creation of an independent noise ombudsman as a means of paving the way for airport expansion – a sort of quid pro quo.
SSE are very wary of aviation lobbyists bearing gifts. Mischievously, the press release issued after the Noise Summit yesterday quoted SSE as supporting the establishment of an independent noise ombudsman. That is true, to the extent that SSE do support the principle. However, SSE is not listed as one of the signatories.