Green MEP Jean Lambert warns new European rules risk making London’s airports noisier
Green Party MEP, Jean Lambert, has warned that people under flight paths to all London’s main airports could suffer increased noise level, especially at night. This is because the European Parliament has voted on revisions to EU rules dealing with airport noise which let economic interests override rules on noise. This will enable the European Commission to overrule flight restrictions – such as night bans – at airports. The change will leave many more people being subjected to the noise, pollution and all other miseries caused by planes. Jean said: “Instead of working to ensure stronger EU rules, to reduce the nuisance, pollution, health problems and safety risks posed by airports, the European Commission gave in to heavy lobbying from the aviation industry and the US administration”. ….this….”takes on an added significance in the context of the UK Government’s desire to cater for ever-increasing numbers of flights….. Instead, we need to reduce demand and explore how aviation could function within environmental limits.”
New rules risk making London’s airports noisier, warns Green MEP
17.4.2014 (Jean Lambert, Green MEP)
EURO-MP Jean Lambert has warned that Londoners living near Heathrow and City Airports – and under flight paths to and from Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports – could suffer increased noise level, especially at night.
The European Parliament has voted on revisions to EU rules dealing with airport noise which let economic interests override rules on noise. Green MEPs hit out at the agreement, which will enable the European Commission to overrule flight restrictions – such as night bans – at airports.
Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, said:
“This review is a blow for all those European citizens living near airports. It will leave many more people being subjected to the noise, pollution and all other miseries caused by planes.
“Instead of working to ensure stronger EU rules, to reduce the nuisance, pollution, health problems and safety risks posed by airports, the European Commission gave in to heavy lobbying from the aviation industry and the US administration.
“Now MEPs and EU governments have cleared these wrong-headed plans for take-off.”
Commenting on the UK context, where the Airports Commission is considering increased aviation capacity, Ms Lambert added:
“This vote today in Brussels takes on an added significance in the context of the UK Government’s desire to cater for ever-increasing numbers of flights. A new runway at either Gatwick or Heathrow would leave more people affected by noise and air pollution and more climate-damaging pollution.
“This is exactly what European laws should be aiming to prevent, and today’s vote is a source of regret to this end. We can’t just keep catering for rising growth in flying. Instead, we need to reduce demand and explore how aviation could function within environmental limits.”
Brussels, 16 April 2014
New EU rules to improve transparency of decisions on airport noise
European Commission – IP/14/444 16/04/2014
The European Commission welcomes today’s decision by the European Parliament to make the rules on noise-related operating restrictions more transparent and evidence-based.
Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: “These new rules will make it easier to find solutions that will satisfy citizens living close by the airports without losing sight of the important economic impact that those airports have on local economies, and in full respect of international rules.”
With these new rules, national and local authorities keep responsibility for concrete decisions about noise-related operating restrictions, tailored to the particular characteristics of each airport. However, those decisions will be taken following an EU harmonised process. This will guarantee a fair outcome for all. The role of the Commission will be to review the quality of the process and, if necessary, take appropriate legal action before restricting measures are implemented, in order to guarantee the rights of citizens, businesses and all interested parties.
Noise restrictions are measures affecting the capacity of an airport to operate, for instance by introducing noise quotas, restricting the use of runways, phasing-out the noisiest aircraft or imposing night bans.
The process for any future decision on airport noise focuses on:
- Evidence gathering on the basis of internationally recognized data and methods;
- Timely and substantial consultations with all stakeholders;
- Provision of sufficiently long notification times to the impacted operators.
Finally, national authorities will decide what is the acceptable level of noise for each specific case and find the most cost-effective solution to mitigate the noise impact.
Air traffic noise affects some 2.5 million citizens in Europe. At the same time, aviation activities boost local economic growth and employment. The challenge is to pursue regional and local policies which maximize connectivity, whilst mitigating the environmental impact of noise.
The new rules will facilitate this process. They clarify the relationship with strategic noise mapping actions undertaken under the Environmental Noise Directive and they strengthen the evidence base for decision makers so that the most cost-effective measures can be selected. The new rules are fully compliant with the international principles on noise management, the so-called ‘Balanced Approach’ developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The measures were proposed by the Commission as part of the Better Airport package. The proposals on slots and groundhandling are still pending.
What happens next?
Today’s decision ends the ordinary legislative procedure. The President of the Council and the President of the European Parliament now have to sign the European law. The new rules will then be published in the coming months.
They are expected to enter into force two years after publication, i.e. around mid-2016.
Luxembourg, 7 June 2012
Airport noise: Member States support revision of EU rules
Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President in charge of transport, thanked the Danish Presidency for its energetic management of the Better Airports proposals, which has now seen agreement reached by the Council both for groundhandling (on 22 March) and today for noise. He said: “Transport ministers have been able to reach a general approach on this politically sensitive issue which is an important step. Decisions on noise restrictions will remain clearly for Member States, but I am also conscious of the impact of restrictions on the aviation network. So we have to ensure a process which is fair and which respects international rules.”
The initial Commission proposal
On 1 December 2011 the Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation on noise-related operating restrictions, in the context of the “Better airports package”, together with proposals on groundhandling and airport slots (see IP/11/1484 and MEMO/11/857). On noise-related operating restrictions, the Commission proposed to repeal Directive 2002/30/EC and to replace it by a new regulation.
Air traffic noise is affecting the quality of life of citizens in the vicinity of airports. At the same time, the travelling public wants to maintain a large choice of air services and aviation is a regional engine for growth. The challenge is to strike the balance between these two objectives and take more evidence-based decisions, with due respect for the global character of aviation. The proposal also makes it possible to phase out the noisiest aircraft of the fleet, which contribute in a disproportionate way to air traffic noise.
What were the main issues at stake?
The transport ministers endorsed the main thrust of the Commission proposal:
- The new rules will more clearly identify all actors in the noise assessment process with their respective rights and obligations. Citizens living in the vicinity of an airport will become involved in the noise assessment process and will be formally consulted before an authority decides on an operating restriction.
- Competent authorities should be able to focus on the noisiest aircraft of the fleet (the so-called ‘marginally compliant aircraft’) and phase them out first, instead of introducing general night flight bans, which would also affect aircraft operators which have been investing in quieter aircraft. The transport ministers have accepted a more stringent definition of such ‘marginally compliant aircraft’, with step-by-step implementation towards greater stringency.
- The Commission will have a right to review the quality of the decision-making process to ensure that all steps in the process have been respected, in line with international commitments.
- The Commission will be empowered to update the noise standards in view of international developments within the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN body for international civil aviation responsible for setting noise standards for aircraft.
In all, this agreement would establish a European framework under which citizens have a visible process in which to make their views known; national authorities would be required to follow clear parameters in taking decisions; operators should get more predictability and legal certainty as a result; the Commission, if required, performs a quality check on the process in line with international commitments; decisions on the substance remain firmly in the hands of Member States.
The proposal must still be voted by the European Parliament in first reading. The proposed regulation on noise-related operating restrictions is the second of three legislative proposals of the “Better airports package”. Further to today’s discussion the Commission expects the Council to work on the third element, slots, under CY Presidency.
For more information please see the Transport and Telecommunications Council memo: MEMO/12/409