London MPs and Councils challenge Airports Commission on aircraft noise with updated “ANASE” report
In 2005 the ANASE (Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England) report into what level of sound caused community annoyance was undertaken, and it indicated that the 57 decibel contour – the measure the UK authorities still use – did not satisfactorily measure aircraft noise. In reality, significant annoyance was caused at much lower level of sound exposure. However, this finding was inconvenient and so the report was shelved by the government. The 57 dB contour is still being used, and is the measure being used by the Airports Commission. The ANASE report has now been revised and updated, and this new report has just been launched by Hillingdon Council on behalf of the all-party 2M Group of councils opposed to Heathrow expansion. It shows far more people are badly affected by aircraft noise than the 57 dB countour would suggest. The 2M group are asking that the Commission investigate a new, more rigorous noise metric with which to assess and compare the noise impacts and costs of all the airport proposals. They say the Commission’s decision on a new runway cannot be based on seriously out of date evidence which bears no resemblance to real-life experience.
For many years, the standard metric used to measure the amount of aircraft noise that over-flown areas are exposed to has been the 57 decibel contour, the 57 LAeq. This is an average level of sound, averaged out over a number of hours, smoothing the peaks of noise when a plane goes overhead with the periods with no plane noise. This metric has serious limitations, and does not reflect accurately the amount or quality of aircraft noise experienced by those overflown.
MPs and councils challenge Davies on noise report
26th February 2014 (Wandsworth Council press release)
The report is at
An all-party group of MPs, councils and aviation campaigners came to the House of Commons today (Wednesday) to officially launch an aircraft noise report which could change the course of the airport expansion debate.
The group claim that Sir Howard Davies, head of the Government’s airports commission, has so far failed to address the ‘ANASE update study’ by leading acoustician Dr Ian Flindell.
The report suggests the number of people affected by Heathrow noise is currently around one million – four times the estimate recognised by the Davies airports commission.
It shows the 57 decibel benchmark the aviation industry and Davies are using to measure aircraft noise impacts is flawed and severely out of date.
The outdated metric allows the expansion lobby to claim that increasing the total number of flights would reduce the number of people annoyed by aircraft noise.
The updated ANASE report was first submitted to the Airports Commission in September last year. But Sir Howard Davies continues to rely on the old 57 decibel noise metric. He has since recommended more night flights over London and shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick as potential sites for new runways.
At today’s launch at the House of Commons Davies was challenged to explain why his commission has failed to respond to this new noise evidence.
The report was commissioned by Hillingdon Council on behalf of the all-party 2M Group of councils opposed to Heathrow expansion. It is supported by London MPs and aviation campaign group HACAN led by John Stewart.
In his report Dr Flindell explains the 57 decibel benchmark Davies uses to indicate when communities become annoyed by overhead flights is based on a survey conducted in 1982 which asked people how they were affected by noise. In 32 years it has never been updated.
The ANASE study compares this research with modern-day survey results which show communities become annoyed at around a 50 decibel benchmark.
The report’s findings are supported by contemporary European noise studies and by people around Heathrow who complain bitterly about noise despite living outside of the 57 decibel contour.
The European Union and the World Health Organisation also recommend a lower noise benchmark than the one Sir Howard is using. By the time a new runway becomes operational in 2030 the survey used to assess its impact would be 48 years out of date.
An extract from Dr Flindell’s report reads:
“From a purely research evidence perspective, it is surprising that UK policy-makers continue to base their understanding of numbers of people affected by aircraft noise on out-of-date, biased, non-independently-reviewed research – especially when there is available much more up-to-date evidence of UK residents’ views on aircraft noise that is consistent with all other recent and substantive pieces of research in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
“The consequence is that policy-makers continue to presume that ‘the onset of significant annoyance’ is 57 [decibels] and that communities below this noise exposure threshold are relatively unaffected by aircraft noise – despite the fact that many such residents say that they are.”
Today’s ANASE launch was hosted by west London MP John Randall on behalf of the all-party MPs group opposed to Heathrow expansion. He said:
“Sir Howard Davies now needs to explain why he shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick for expansion based on such an out of date noise survey. He leads a commission set up to rigorously scrutinise every aspect of the airport expansion debate so why has he neglected such a fundamental concern? Our constituents deserve an explanation.”
Leader of Wandsworth Council and spokesman for 2M Ravi Govindia said:
“We’re not saying Davies has to adopt the ANASE report or stick to a 50 decibel benchmark. But he does have to investigate a new, more rigorous noise metric with which to assess and compare the noise impacts and costs of all the airport proposals. He can’t base tomorrow’s runway decision on such out of date evidence which bears no resemblance to real-life experience.”
The first ANASE study was published in 2005 but was immediately buried by the Government of the day which was about to unveil plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
Instead the 2005 Government choose to maintain the 57 decibel metric as the official benchmark – allowing the third runway project to progress.
The campaigners say Sir Howard Davies will not be able to sweep the report under the carpet and that he must base his recommendations on a noise metric communities can trust.
To let Sir Howard Davies know your views email Howard.Davies@airports.gsi.gov.uk
To let the Transport Secretary know your views email firstname.lastname@example.org
To report noise complaints to Heathrow email email@example.com or call 0800 344 844
The report’s summary states:
This report highlights problems in existing UK policy on aircraft noise assessment and its
evidence base. This report demonstrates that:
– The findings of the government-commissioned 2005 ANASE study are more robust than the previous ANIS study of 1982. However, government policy continues to be based on the older study.
– The ANASE findings are more up-to-date, reflecting the views of communities around 20 UK airports in 2005/6, whilst the research still being used to inform government policy obtained the views of residents in 1982, more than 30 years ago, when aircraft sound levels and numbers were very different to today.
– The ANASE findings are consistent with non survey-based sources of reported community annoyance (e.g. complaints by the public to government and aviation authorities) and corroborate these vocal indications that significant proportions of some communities outside 57 LAeq – such as areas in and around Eton & Windsor, East Sheen, Barnes and Putney – report that they find aircraft noise to be annoying.
– The ANASE findings are consistent with the current known situation across Europe – whilst the research still used by UK government may be consistent with the European situation of 30 years ago.
– The ANASE research findings provide evidence of the ratio between aircraft numbers and
average sound levels that best reflects community annoyance, which is consistent with historical UK evidence (in particular, the Wilson Committee adoption of NNI).
– In contrast, the single piece of research that suggests community annoyance is more influenced by changes in aircraft sound levels than changes to aircraft numbers, ANIS, was biased in the way it asked residents to think only of the noisiest aircraft situation (with no mention of numbers of aircraft) when considering their annoyance with aircraft noise.
From a purely research evidence perspective, it is surprising that UK policy-makers continue to base their understanding of numbers of people affected by aircraft noise on out-of-date, biased, non-independently-reviewed research – especially when there is available much more up-to-date evidence of UK residents’ views on aircraft noise that is consistent with all other recent and substantive pieces of research in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
The consequence is that policy-makers continue to presume that ‘the onset of significant
annoyance’ is 57 LAeq and that communities below this noise exposure threshold are relatively unaffected by aircraft noise – despite the fact that many such residents say that they are.
ANASE study on attitudes to aircraft noise to be updated to show real impact of Heathrow flight paths
Title: ANASE (Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England) – extracts only.
Heathrow’s noise contour maps
These are at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244529/lhr-2012.pdf dated September 2013 (by the CAA and the Dft)
The map towards the end of the above document (Page 32) “Noise Exposure Contours for Heathrow Airport 2012″
is copied below.
The outer line indicates the 57 db contour
Original is on Page 32 of https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244529/lhr-2012.pdf
Minister sits on damning report on impact of Heathrow noise (ANASE study)
to a study for the Department for Transport which the Government is attempting
to conceal while it plans the expansion of Heathrow. The existing method of measuring
aircraft noise, adopted a quarter of a century ago, is too narrow and outdated,
the study concludes. It fails to take account either of the huge growth in the
number of flights or the public’s growing demand for quietness.
While individual aircraft have become quieter, the number of flights at Heathrow
has grown from 273,000 in 1982 to 477,000 last year. The study also found that
aircraft noise causes greater annoyance to people on higher incomes, those in
the social groups A and B and those aged 35 to 64. The current method takes none
of these factors into account.
The “Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England” (Anase) study, a draft
copy of which has been obtained by The Times, undermines the case for building
a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The runway, which the Government has said should open
between 2015 and 2020, would create new flight paths and result in an extra 500
flights a day over London.
The 2003 aviation White Paper pledged that the runway would only go ahead if
it resulted in “no net increase” to the size of the area around Heathrow affected
by 57 decibels of aircraft noise, the level deemed to mark “the onset of significant
community annoyance”. But the new study suggests that significant annoyance starts
at around 50 decibels.
While there are 258,000 residents inside the 57-decibel area, ten times that
number live inside the 50-decibel area.
Jim Fitzpatrick, the Aviation Minister, last week rejected calls to publish the
study early in a letter to the “2M” group of 12 local authorities covering two
million residents living under Heathrow’s flight paths.
He claimed that the study had yet to be finalised, even though it was ordered
6 years ago and the draft reveals that the DfT had seen a copy 3 months ago, on
July 5. Mr Fitzpatrick wrote: “It would be premature to suggest that the report
will lead to any change in approach – we shall want to reflect on it . . . We
would not accept that the launch of the Heathrow consultation cannot precede Anase.”
The study concludes: “At the same level of aircraft noise exposure, people are
more annoyed in 2005 than they were in 1982 . . . People today have higher expectations
of their rights to a peaceful and harmonious living environment and are more openly
critical of policy-making and government, than people at the beginning of the
The study found that people found flights between 11pm and 3am were 80% more
annoying than those during the day. But flights between 3am and 7am were only
35 per cent more annoying. The number of Heathrow flights between 11.30pm and
6am is currently restricted to about 16 a night.
The Government’s Department for Transport commissioned the ANASE Study in March
2001 just before the General Election of that year to look at aircraft noise in
England. The previous study was published in 1985, with the research being conducted
in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.
Story by Ben Webster
HACAN press release on 2.11.2007
An Inconvenient Truth
Department for Transport “sneaks out” its first major national study on aircraft
noise for a quarter of a century
The Department for Transport has been accused of sneaking out the first major
national study it has produced on aircraft noise for nearly a quarter of a century.
Today at 9.30am the Department will simply publish the ANASE study (The Attitudes
to Noise from Aviation Sources in England) on its website (1). And, in a highly
unusual move, the Department will also publish the comments of the people who
were asked to peer review the study. It is thought the DfT will neither agree
or disagree with the findings of the study but will highlight that the peer reviewers’
comments – some of which are critical of the study – to justify further work before
the findings can be used in policy-making.
But critics have accused the Department of running away from the findings of
its own study because it has found that aircraft noise causes much more annoyance
than the Government or the aviation industry has previously admitted. The Government
has consistently maintained that aircraft noise only starts to annoy people when
it averages out at 57 decibels. But the new study suggests that significant annoyance
starts at around 50 decibels. That is consistent with the findings of the World
This means that many more people than previously admitted are affected by aircraft
noise. At Heathrow there are 258,000 residents inside the 57-decibel area, but
over 2 million live inside the 50-decibel area (2).
Local campaign groups argue they have been telling the Government this for years.
John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, said, “Local people have been vindicated. For over
10 years now local people in areas more than 15 miles from the airport have been
complaining about aircraft noise problems. This study shows they have not been
Although the study is a national one, it will cause particular problems for the
Government over its plans to expand Heathrow which are expected to be put out
to public consultation next month. The Government has pledged that the expansion
plans will not go ahead if the number of people living in the 57-decibel areas
were to increase. Their new study suggests that a better cut off point would
be the 50-decibel area.
The study found that the existing method of measuring aircraft noise, adopted
a quarter of a century ago, is too narrow and outdated. It fails to take account
of the huge growth in the number of flights. While individual aircraft have become
quieter, the number of flights at Heathrow has grown from 273,000 in 1982 to 477,000
John Stewart added: “For the Government this new study is an inconvenient truth.
It gets in the way of their expansion plans. But, instead of running away from
it, it needs to face up to the stark reality that millions of people’s lives are
being blighted by aircraft noise.”
Notes for Editors:
(1). The ANASE Study was commissioned in 2001. The previous study had been published
(2). Places in the 50 decibel-area would include large chunks of Berkshire and
most of London stretching into South East London and into areas of North London
such as Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington.
For more information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957385650
Press release dated: 2nd November 2007