Government starts consultation on UK Airspace Policy, to manage increasing use of airspace

Alongside the draft NPS, the Government is publishing separate proposals to “modernise” the way UK airspace is managed. This consultation; “UK Airspace Policy: A framework for balanced decisions on the design and use of airspace” is (quote): …”seeking views on how aircraft noise is managed effectively while updating airspace policies. Proposals will look at how the number of aircraft entering and leaving our airspace can be managed effectively – using the latest technology to make airspace more efficient, reducing the need for stacking and making journeys faster and more environmentally friendly.” They will also include draft guidance on how noise impacts should be assessed and used to inform decisions on airspace. The consultation also includes proposals on the role of an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, which we will establish. The Commission would build relationships between industry and communities and ensure an even fairer process for making changes to the use of airspace and flight paths.”  Cynics might enjoy the craft in the wording: “… more environmentally friendly” and “even fairer”.  If only.  The government is aware that the current policy of trying to “minimise the number significantly affected by aircraft noise” does not work, with P-RAV technology, and highly concentrated narrow routes. That has not proved to be”fair” at all.



Consultation on airspace policy

2.2.2017  (DfT website) – Statement by Chris Grayling, Transport Minister

“We need to think about how we manage the rising number of aircraft in an efficient and effective manner. By taking steps now to future-proof this vital infrastructure, we can harness the latest technology to make airspace more efficient as well as making journeys faster and more environmentally friendly.

I am therefore also publishing proposals to modernise the way UK airspace is managed, which will be consulted on in parallel. The policy principles set out in this airspace consultation influence decisions taken later in the planning process for a north-west runway at Heathrow, if the Airports National Policy Statement were to be designated, including how local communities can have their say on airspace matters and how impacts on them are taken into account.

It is an important issue and one that will define the principles for shaping our airspace for years to come. It is therefore sensible to allow members of the public to consider both matters at the same time.

The proposals being published for consultation today include the functions, structure and governance of an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, which we will establish. The commission would build relationships between industry and communities, embed a culture of best practice, and ensure an even fairer process for making changes to airspace.

The proposed new call-in function for a Secretary of State on airspace changes, similar to that used by the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government for planning applications, create a democratic back-stop in the most significant decisions, much called for by communities.

The consultation on airspace policy, new Air navigation guidance and the Strategic rationale for upgrading the UK’s airspace will be made available online.”  [Not yet out]

Ends 25th May 2017  after a 16 week consultation, alongside the Airports NPS consultation.

Public consultation events by the DfT will take place across the country.



Open consultation

Reforming policy on the design and use of UK airspace

The DfT says:

We are consulting on proposals to:

  • support the reform of airspace, thereby maximising the economic and social benefits of aviation
  • minimise the negative local impacts of aviation

We are seeking comment on proposals to update policy on the management of UK airspace including:

  • the role of an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise to ensure noise impacts are openly considered
  • providing industry with the ability to assess noise impacts and guidance to help them manage change more effectively
  • bringing compensation policy for airspace changes in line with policy on changes to aviation infrastructure
  • greater flexibility for London’s major airports, so they can adapt noise management to the needs of their local communities

The policy principles set out in the consultation document will influence decisions, including how:

  • local communities can have their say on airspace matters
  • industry should take into account the impacts on local communities and act to reduce them

The draft ‘Air navigation guidance on airspace and noise management and environmental objectives’ shows how these policy principles could be put into place.

We are running regional consultation information events for invited stakeholders. If you think you should have been invited, please contact us on 0800 689 4968.

These are the relevant documents:

UK airspace policy: a framework for balanced decisions on the design and use of airspace (web version)


How to respond – deadline 25th May 2017


Complete a response form and either

Email to:

Write to:




The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) commented:

On today’s proposals for providing a framework for decisions relating to airspace change


AEF Director Tim Johnson said:

Today’s proposals follow intense community pressure over recent years for the Government to act to prevent significant airspace changes being implemented without either consultation or compensation for those affected on the ground.

Communities who have been suffering the noise effects of aircraft flying down increasingly narrow corridors as a consequence of satellite navigation technology will welcome today’s proposals to take better account of local circumstances and engage more with those affected.

Communities will also be encouraged by the prospect of compensation for airspace changes, a call-in power for the Secretary of State to intervene where the impacts are likely to be significant, and a requirement to assess noise down to lower thresholds.

The Government’s proposal to create an independent commission on aircraft noise will also be welcomed by some communities hopeful that the body will provide some fresh thinking on the issue.  But with no requirement to deliver a noise reduction strategy, and without enforcement powers, or the teeth to make binding recommendations, its effectiveness may be limited.

Overall this is a strategy about catering for more demand.  Improvements to the process in terms of transparency and communication won’t tackle the underlying need to reduce noise.

The Government’s hope that future noise reductions will be achieved through the introduction of quieter aircraft and a reduction in stacking will only have a marginal impact given the likely increase in the number of aircraft. These hopes also ignore the reality that people are becoming more annoyed by aircraft noise than they were in the past, despite technological improvements.

The Government-commissioned SoNA report, released today by the CAA, confirms the finding of many other recent studies that sensitivity has increased over the years.

Noise levels around many airports are already too high, and are likely to get worse if the sector continues to expand. We urgently need a Government strategy for limiting noise to within levels that are safe for health. It shouldn’t fall to members of the public to have to defend themselves against their local noise environment becoming intolerable.