Airport Operators Assn wants restrictions on building of new homes near airports, to limit noise complaints

The Telegraph reports on a study by the Airport Operators Association (AOA)  that almost 6,000 new homes have been approved around airports in the past 3 years despite a government policy to reduce the number of people exposed to aviation noise.  Since April 2011 some 5,761 homes have either been granted planning permission, started or completed construction close enough to an airport that significant annoyance from noise is deemed likely (they say this is within the 57 dB contour). There are more than 1,000 homes around Heathrow and London City airports, at least 300 around Manchester and more than 100 around Aberdeen, Birmingham, Glasgow and Luton. Many more housing developments are planned in areas afflicted by loud aircraft noise. The AOA does not want more complaints, or demands for reductions in noise, from all these extra people being over-flown. They do not want planners to allow more developments which will restrict aircraft noise.  Some 2,000 homes are now being built in north Crawley, in an area now at risk of serious noise if a 2nd runway is built, as planners wrongly believed Sir David Rowland’s assurance, in Feb 2010 that Gatwick had “not a shred of interest” in a 2nd runway. A deeply unsatisfactory situation.


6,000 homes built around airports

Flurry of developments within ‘annoyance’ boundary of airports comes despite government pledge to reduce number of people exposed to noise

By Nick Collins, Transport Correspondent (Telegraph)
10 Sep 2014

Almost 6,000 new homes have been approved around airports in the past three years despite a government policy to reduce the number of people exposed to aviation noise, The Telegraph can reveal.

Since April 2011 some 5,761 homes have either been granted planning permission, started or completed construction close enough to an airport that significant annoyance from noise is deemed likely.
The Government’s official policy on aviation noise states that the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise should be limited and, where possible, reduced.
The new figures, to be published in an Airport Operators Association report today, reveal the number of houses being built within the 57db “noise contour” around Britain’s 18 largest airports.

This measurement, reflecting the average level of daytime aircraft noise, is used by the Government to mark the onset of significant annoyance to communities.

The homes being built within this region include more than 1,000 around Heathrow and London City airports, at least 300 around Manchester and more than 100 around Aberdeen, Birmingham, Glasgow and Luton.

More developments are planned, including a development of 1,900 homes and other buildings including a school within the 57db contour of Gatwick.

Planning regulations previously included  provisions about noise level and exposure to prevent homes being built in areas subjected to high levels of noise pollution or being built without sufficient noise insulation, but these were withdrawn in 2012.

In contrast airports are obliged to pay for noise insulation for homes within a 63db noise contour of an airport, and to help with relocation costs within a 69db zone.

The AOA, which represents airport operators, said in its report: “Developers and local authorities have free reign to develop new buildings inside airport noise contours if they want to, but this places new responsibilities on the airport.

“Building homes within noise contours that the national Government uses to mark the onset of annoyance at aircraft noise, with no guarantee of adequate standards of noise insulation, is not the best way to meet the UK’s housing needs.”

The government should reverse the change in planning guidelines and force housing developers to provide sound insulation and notify people of aircraft noise before they buy or rent homes within the 57db noise contour, the AOA said.

Rebecca Roberts-Hughes, AOA policy director, said: “I understand we need to build millions of homes but at the moment there’s a policy disconnect about where they should be. It is important those homes work with local infrastructure like airports rather than falling into potential conflict.”

A spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This report has got its facts wrong. The Government has issued robust planning guidance on noise issues and new development, including mitigation.”

Launching the AOA report this afternoon Robert Goodwill, the Transport Minister, will describe noise around airports as a “critical environmental issue which needs to be addressed”.

“The Government made clear in its Aviation Policy Framework that the industry must continue to reduce and mitigate noise as airport capacity grows, but more can be done,” he will say.

The AOA report also found that the carbon footprint of Britain’s airports reduced by three per cent between 2010 and 2012, despite passenger numbers rising by five per cent and air traffic by two per cent over the same period.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the AOA, said: “The report shows that airports are keeping to their side of the bargain, investing and innovating to reduce their carbon footprints.

“We urge ministers to step up to the plate and do their bit to deliver supportive policy on issues such as supporting sustainable aviation fuels, promoting a global carbon emissions trading scheme, and providing consistent national and local planning policy.”



The AOA (Airport Operators Association) report states:
Further policy on aircraft noise sets out different levels of noise contours and different responsibilities airports have to communities within these levels. The Aviation Policy Framework (APF) states that airport operators should offer households exposed to noise levels of 69dB or more assistance with the cost of moving, and additionally that acoustic insulation should be offered to noise sensitive buildings exposed to noise levels of
63dB or more (again based on an LAeq, 16 hour contour).
The APF recommends that airports considering developments which result in an increase in noise review their compensation schemes, and offer financial assistance towards acoustic
insulation to homes that experience an increase in noise of 3dB or more where it leaves them exposed to levels of noise of 63dB or more. The APF also states that significant community
annoyance is expected within the 57dB LAeq, 16 hour contour (hereon referred to as the given noise contour)
The number of new residential buildings being developed within the given noise contour (57dB LAeq 16 hour) continues to grow.  Many parts of the UK are experiencing an acute shortage of housing. Around 230,000 new households form every year and there is a backlog of two million households on waiting lists, so that the number of new homes built every year will need to increase at least threefold to between 300,000 and 330,000.   There is understandable pressure on local authorities to enable the development of new homes, and of the community infrastructure needed to serve new households. But building homes within noise contours that the national Government uses to mark the onset of annoyance at aircraft noise, with no guarantee of adequate standards of noise insulation, is not the best way to meet the UK’s housing needs. Moving new households and communities inside noise contours could result in annoyance and conflict with the economic benefits offered by the airport.
Some people are happy to live near airports; people react differently to noise; and 57dB levels will not annoy everyone. But living near an airport should be a choice and, if people do choose to live within the given noise contour, they should be made aware of aircraft noise.
We collected the given noise contour (57dB LAeq 16 hour) of 18 airports and assessed the type and number of new buildings granted planning permission and being built within those
areas.71 Nationally, 5,761 homes have been granted planning permission, started or completed construction in the noise contours of the UK’s 18 biggest airports. This means new
homes are being built in areas where the Government expects people can experience annoyance at aircraft noise. More than half of these new homes are being built in the noise contours of airports near London, and four other airports serving cities across the UK are each finding new developments of over 100 homes in their noise contours. Educational and health buildings are also being extended and even newly built in these areas.
Where are new homes being built?
The table shows more than 1,000 homes near Heathrow and London City airport, and more than 300 homes near Manchester. Also more than 100 homes near Aberdeen, Birmingham
Glasgow and Luton; and fewer than 100 at Gatwick and Liverpool airports.
Table also shows educational and health buildings. [See page 40 of   link for details ]

The data shows that nationally, across the UK, significant housing developments of over 100 homes at a time are being planned and built within airport noise contours. But the issue
varies within different nations and regions – for example, whilst one Scottish airport has nearly 200 homes being built within its noise contour, another has less than ten. It is also
important to note that where an airport has no or few homes being developed, this applies specifically to the three-year period in which our research has taken place. Noise-sensitive
development may still be planned within these airports’ contours. For example, Newcastle airport is awaiting the outcome of a planning appeal for hundreds of homes, and a
development of 1,900 homes and other buildings including a school is due to start on site within Gatwick airport’s contour. There will be other contingencies too – there is no way of
knowing how many of the homes will have adequate noise insulation, and, as we explain above, different people experience annoyance at different types and volumes of aircraft noise. New homes should not necessarily be banned within airport noise contours if there is evidence that people want to live there and are comfortable experiencing aircraft noise.

Encroachment of new housing and other developments on airport noise contours is a national problem that varies in different locations – for this reason the solutions need to be
applied locally.
Airports are already engaging directly with local communities through bespoke activities, and with local authorities by providing their noise contours, contributing to policy development and
helping to monitor new development within noise contours. But the Government should reverse its policy change and reintroduce national planning guidance about how local authorities should interpret noise contours and align airports with local development needs.
Housing developers and estate agents also need to play their part by ensuring information about aircraft noise is available to people considering buying or renting homes within airport noise contours.


Some comments from AirportWatch members:

Those of us who live near Heathrow are already witnessing an explosion in housebuilding e.g.3700 new homes to be built in Southall under the flightpath
There is huge interest from developers in building on Green Belt land in Lilley Bottom (North Herts, just to the east of Luton’s runway), slap beneath the arrival/departure track.  To do them justice the Luton operator is none too keen to see another few thousand potential noise complainers and has opposed previous planning applications.  Luton Borough Council, though, are pressing East Herts on the “duty to cooperate” argument to let development go ahead: Luton Borough being already “built up to its boundaries” but wanting more dwellings.  And then,of course, Luton Council owns the airport  funny old world…..
The GACC response to the Commission’s paper on Delivery said –
“Paragraph 3.25 in the Discussion Document refers to ‘encroachment’, an issue often raised by the aviation industry as if it were the fault of the planning authorities. More often it is the result of changes of policy by the Government or the airport. The case of the 2,000 houses being built at present on the northern side of Crawley close to the line of the proposed new runway is a case in point.  Crawley Council refused permission, and were upheld at appeal. The builders took the case to the High Court, and the judge granted permission, basing his judgement on the fact that the Government in May 2010 had ruled out any new runway, and that the chairman of Gatwick Airport Ltd had stated in January 2010 that the airport ‘had not a shred of interest’ in a new runway. [See below for source]. Local councils cannot be blamed if Governments change their minds and airports break their promises.”


Gatwick airport comment, 2010

Airport owners have “not a shred of interest” in second Gatwick runway

 8th February 2010

Gatwick Airport’s new owners have ruled out building a second runway for the foreseeable future.

The message this week from the airport’s new chairman Sir David Rowlands was that new owners Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) have “not a shred of interest” in a second runway.

In a meeting with the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC), Sir David said that a new runway was not Government policy nor the policy of the airport.

And he added that even if the Government started to look more favourably at the prospect of a second runway, Gatwick would have to “think very hard about spending £100 million to £200 million on a planning application with an uncertain decision.”

Welcoming the news, GACC chairman Brendon Sewill said: “This firm statement will kill off some silly speculation, and will remove a lot of uncertainty and anxiety.”

Under a long-standing local planning agreement, there is an understanding that there will be no new runway at Gatwick before 2019.

But last December, Gatwick’s ownership passed from BAA to US-based investment fund GIP, and fears were voiced the new owners would start looking at possible runway plans.

But at the meeting with Charlwood-based GACC, Sir David said: “The simple fact is that we at Gatwick have not a shred of interest in a second runway.”

Mr Sewill of Stan Hill, Charlwood, said: “The united stand by local people, by the local MPs and by all the local councils across Surrey, Sussex and Kent has helped to produce this result.”

But he added: “We will remain on guard.

“The Government and BAA have previously ruled out new runways at Stansted and at Heathrow, only to announce them a few years later.”

He said: “We will stand ready, if need be, to launch a massive campaign to defeat any new runway plan, as we have defeated such plans in the past.”

GACC has more than 100 district and parish councils and amenity groups as members.

East Surrey MP Peter Ainsworth said he was “delighted” the airport’s new owners had effectively ruled out seeking to build a second runway for a generation.

Mr Ainsworth said: “I am absolutely delighted that the spectre of a second runway at Gatwick – with all that it would entail in terms of housebuilding, noise, road congestion and pollution – has finally been laid to rest.”

He said: “This issue has been hovering around for all of the 18 years during which I have been an MP, and Sir David’s words will come as a huge relief to all who care about the local environment.”

Mr Ainsworth added: “I am of course aware that Gatwick is a major employer.

“I want it to be a successful one-runway airport, popular with airlines, passengers and local people.

“The definitive ditching of any plans for a second runway is refreshingly open and straightforward.

“I hope that it paves the way for a more trusting relationship between the community and the airport operator.”

Peter von Staerck, chairman of Horley and District Chamber of Commerce, said the Gatwick chairman’s words spelled out mixed fortunes.

He said: “For the environment it’s good news, but for the economy it’s not so good.”

And he added: “People have made comments to me before, saying why buy an airport if you’re not going to have a second runway?”