Government’s independent noise advisors ICCAN confirm that the impact of aircraft noise has been underestimated
It is highly significant that the government’s independent body looking into the problem of aircraft noise has said the previous study, SoNA, was inadequate. ICCAN declared the DfT’s evidential basis for assessing the noise impact of Heathrow expansion to have been “inappropriate” and did not properly reflect the numbers affected by plane noise, or the impacts. The Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “And were expansion to proceed at Heathrow … a scandal would be in the making. When the DfT claimed that merely 97,300 more residents would be exposed to adverse aircraft noise, the Transport Select Committee concluded that the DfT’s methodology was “not of the real world”. Indeed, under a freedom of information request, we then learned that an internal DfT study had implied 2.2 million people would be affected – if the department had only applied the more realistic noise thresholds used elsewhere.”…”We remain startled that a government department, purportedly responsible for protecting communities from aviation noise, should plough on in this reckless – and perhaps deceitful – manner.”
Letter in the Independent
– from Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition
30th January 2020
In highlighting the government’s exceptionally high threshold for measuring aircraft noise, the CPRE and The Independent have exposed a significant failing in the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) approach to aviation policy. And were expansion to proceed at Heathrow – which lies at the heart of the most densely populated residential region in the UK – a scandal would be in the making.
When the DfT claimed that merely 97,300 more residents would be exposed to adverse aircraft noise, the Transport Select Committee concluded that the DfT’s methodology was “not of the real world”. Indeed, under a freedom of information request, we then learned that an internal DfT study had implied 2.2 million people would be affected – if the department had only applied the more realistic noise thresholds used elsewhere. When I broached this study with the aviation minister, she professed to know nothing of it.
Just before Christmas, the government’s own new aviation noise body, the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise, declared the DfT’s evidential basis for assessing the noise impact of Heathrow expansion to have been “inappropriate”.
We are grateful to the CPRE and The Independent for shining a light on this matter. But we do remain startled that a government department, purportedly responsible for protecting communities from aviation noise, should plough on in this reckless – and perhaps deceitful – manner.
Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition
Government’s independent noise advisors confirm that the impact of aircraft noise has been underestimated
No 3rd Runway Coalition press release
28th January 2020
The first study by the Government’s new body on assessing adverse impacts of aircraft noise (1), has underestimated the monetised impacts to exposure to aircraft noise by as much as £9BN, according to campaigners.
In the first report “ICCAN Review of the Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014” (1), the Government’s newly created Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN), found that the evidence base for Government’s and Heathrow Airport’s own assessment of the impact of noise pollution resulting from Heathrow expansion, to be fundamentally flawed due to “inappropriate” survey sampling.
The report states that the “Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014” (SoNA 2014) (2), had only “considered populations that had already experienced high levels of aviation noise”, rather than communities that had recently been impacted by aircraft noise for the first time, or communities that had been exposed to a greater intensification of noise.
Both the Department for Transport and Heathrow Airport Limited have relied on SoNA 2014 to form the basis of its evidence on the noise impacts of expansion (4).
ICCAN’s report also states that SoNA 2014 failed to consider changes in the noise environment resulting from either new flight paths, or the intensification of existing flight paths: the very scenarios that will arise as a result of the expansion of Heathrow.
One of the material consequences of this inappropriate survey sampling was the setting the Lowest Observable Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL) by the Department for Transport (DfT) at too high a value – a 51 decibels (LAeq), average noise throughout the hours of an airport’s operation – despite clear evidence having long existed from sites around Heathrow, Gatwick and other UK airports, that significant adverse impacts of aircraft noise on communities occurred at considerably lower noise levels.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines for the onset of significant noise annoyance is 45 decibels average throughout the day (5).
A clear conclusion from ICAAN’s report is that the DfT’s current LOAEL (of just 51 decibels) is unreliable for the purpose of assessing the impact upon those who will either be overflown for the first time or would endure intensification of flight path activity.
With Heathrow recently announcing their intention to submit their application for a Development Consent Order to expand the airport in late 2020, the timing of this intervention by ICAAN is significant.
Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“ICAAN’s findings show that the evidence base underpinning Heathrow’s case for expansion is critically flawed. To proceed on the basis of these erroneous noise thresholds would be to willfully underplay the number of people who be adversely affected, to fail to properly assess the impacts on peoples’ wellbeing and to ignore the inevitable health and economic cost consequences to the public purse.
“Now that the evidence base of Heathrow’s pre-application consultation – which has statutory effect – has been declared flawed, it is quite possible that a whole new front has been opened for ongoing legal challenge to Heathrow expansion.”
- The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was established in January 2019. ICCAN is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Transport. Its head commissioner is Robert Light. https://iccan.gov.uk
- CAA publication CAP1506: Survey of noise attitudes 2014: https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplication.aspx?appid=11&mode=detail&id=7744
- Heathrow (supported by the DfT) is proceeding on the basis of SoNA 2014. Its pre-application consultation and its preliminary environmental assessment (PIER) not only used the DfT’s current LOAEL (of just 51 decibels) as its basis for assessing the noise impacts of its expansion: it is a fundamental part of the airport’s case as it seeks to obtain a development consent order (DCO) for the third runway.
- The latest WHO guidelines (Noise Bulletin November 2018, p.1) finds 9.4% of the population will become “highly annoyed” at 45 decibels of noise, whereas SoNA 2014 says 7% are highly annoyed at 51 decibels.
For more information contact:
· Rob Barnstone on 07806 947050 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Noise body ICCAN recognises problems with the SoNA noise survey, and recommends new, better, regular noise surveys
One of the key surveys on attitudes to aircraft noise was the SoNA study, Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014, carried out by the CAA. The SoNA study found people were more annoyed by noise, and more sensitive to it, than another study in 1985. Some degree of annoyance and adverse effects were found down to 51dB LAeq 16hr. The conventional level of averaged noise considered a problem is 57 dB LAeq. But critics have said the study was flawed, as it only considered populations that had already experienced high levels of aviation noise, rather than communities that had been impacted for the first time, or had newly been exposed to a greater intensification of noise. With the expansion of aviation in the UK, there are many areas and hundreds of thousands of people, who are being newly exposed to plane noise. The noise body ICCAN has realised there is a problem with SoNA. It recommends that a new, regular attitudinal survey is begun before the end of 2021, and repeated frequently. And that “the new surveys should be commissioned, run and analysed independent of Government, regulators and industry. We consider it appropriate for ICCAN to take on this role, working closely with relevant stakeholders.”
CPRE report shows UK monitoring of aircraft noise ‘seriously underestimates’ disturbance to people’s quality of life and health
CPRE is calling on the Government to improve the way it monitors aircraft noise after new research shows current maps seriously underestimate the problem. This comes at a time when there are proposals for airport expansion across the country, and as the Government prepares a new aviation strategy. The research, commissioned by CPRE, was carried out by Aviation Consultants, To70. It looked at the impact of noise pollution at lower levels than those usually mapped in the UK now. These lower levels, already used for monitoring noise pollution in other European countries, are believed to be a better indicator of the true impact of noise pollution below and near flight paths. The report uses Gatwick airport as an example, but the findings would apply at any airport. Currently the standard measure above which plane noise is regarded to “annoy” people if 55dB (a noise average),but this is far too high. A noise contour is produced for this noise level. But the WHO recommends reducing aircraft noise levels to 45 decibels in the day. The noise contour for 45dB is hugely larger than that for 57dB. CPRE says the government should commission independent research into the impact of aviation noise on health. Also that the ICCAN should be given statutory powers on noise.