Independent aircraft noise commission ICCAN calls on UK government to prioritise aviation noise issues post-COVID-19
As aviation experiences an all-time low in demand for air travel, ICCAN – the UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise – has proposed to use the unique opportunity to address aviation noise once services begin to increase post COVID-19. ICCAN has called on the UK government to make managing aviation noise a key priority after the pandemic restrictions, when aviation levels begin to increase again. In a letter to Grant Shapps and Kelly Tolhurst, ICCAN’s Head Commissioner, Rob Light, argued that the unprecedented situation should be seen as a chance to rebuild the sector in a more “sustainable” way. This means on noise, as well as on carbon emissions. ICCAN believes that there must be a clear, consistent and transparent approach to noise mitigation and, therefore, the current ways of working must change. The dramatic cut in aircraft noise due to the pandemic is a unique opportunity to understand the impact of noise nuisance from planes. It is expected that when flights resume, aircraft noise will seem more noticeable, and will generate a significant negative reaction from local communities. This has to be taken seriously in future.
ICCAN calls on UK government to prioritise aviation noise post-COVID-19
As aviation experiences an all-time low, ICCAN has proposed to use the unique opportunity to address aviation noise once services begin to increase post COVID-19.
https://iccan.gov.uk/ ICCAN Website
The UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) has called on the UK government to make managing aviation noise a key priority in a post-COVID-19 environment, when aviation levels begin to recover and start to increase following the drastic decline in services as a result of the pandemic.
In a letter to Grant Shapps and Kelly Tolhurst – the UK’s Transport Secretary and Aviation Minister, respectively – ICCAN’s Head Commissioner, Rob Light, argued that the unprecedented situation the industry is currently experiencing should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way.
Light said: “The decisions taken when rebuilding cannot be at any cost and this applies to the detrimental effects of noise on the public, as much as it does to climate change concerns.”
ICCAN believes that there must be a clear, consistent and transparent approach to noise mitigation and, as a result, the current ways of working must change. The advisory body is currently collecting and analysing data on aircraft movements, noise monitoring and attitudes around airports, as the drastic fall in aviation activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique opportunity to use data to understand the impact as such historic low levels of activity begin to increase.
Some communities living close to airports may currently be experiencing a period of respite due to quieter skies, but one of the expected consequences when aviation activity levels increase is that the noise will be more noticeable. Given the particular health impacts of noise on those communities, ICCAN believes that it is vital that noise management and mitigation is properly considered as activity levels begin to pick up.
In the letter, Light wrote: “When the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) published our first Corporate Strategy in the spring of 2019, we could scarcely have imagined the events to come and the impact COVID-19 would have on the aviation industry. I feel a great deal of empathy for the many thousands of people employed in the aviation industry and the uncertainty that lies ahead.”
The letter continued: “We see current events – and I write this with utmost sensitivity – as an opportunity for a re-think about the way aviation noise is considered when both strategic and operational decisions are taken about the future of aviation. In the understandable desire to rebuild aviation swiftly and efficiently, not being seen to prioritise aviation noise management is likely to generate a significant negative reaction from local communities. The public will need to trust that the rebuilding of the aviation industry – at whatever pace – is done in a sustainable way.”
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.”
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.”