ICCAN progress report, after a year’s work looking at aviation noise – it should be a priority post-Covid
What seems a long time ago, in 2015, the Airports Commission recommended that an independent body should be set up to deal with aircraft noise problems. So in 2019 ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) was finally set up. It was hoped that this body would be able to help people who are subjected to aircraft noise, and who have no sensible means to get the level of noise nuisance reduced. In reality, ICCAN says its aim is “to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme.” And: “It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise ….” It has no powers. It has now produced its Progress Report, one year from starting work. Its main aim has been contacting many “stakeholders”, finding information, getting well informed. Now its lead commissioner, Rob Light, says the Covid pandemic “should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way” and noise should be a key priority.
Our progress update: ‘One year in’
ICCAN Newsletter – June 2020
ICCAN (Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) says:
It has been almost one year since we published our first Corporate Strategy, which set out ICCAN’s aim to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme.
As we enter our second year of that strategy, we have taken a look at how we have done over the past year, in ‘Corporate Strategy 2019-2021: Progress report – One year in’. This charts our progress so far as we prepare to deliver a series of reports and guidance that we have spent the first year researching.
We also use the document to reflect on the impact Covid-19 has had on the aviation industry and how we intend to deliver our objectives over the next year, in a landscape that looks very different to the one we encountered when we were first established in 2019.
Call to make noise a key priority in aviation recovery
Last month, ICCAN Head Commissioner Rob Light wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, and Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP. In his letter, he put forward ICCAN’s view that the unprecedented situation the aviation industry is currently experiencing should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way, and he called for noise to be a key priority.
Engagement must continue
After attending the first meeting of the Heathrow Community Engagement Board’s Independent Forum, ICCAN Commissioner Howard Simmons wrote a blog reflecting on the meeting, the use of virtual technology for engagement and why conversations about noise must continue despite the slowdown in aviation.
We see this as a great opportunity to rebuild the industry in a way that ensures noise management is at the core of planning for the future and we are heartened that there are others on both sides of the debate with a similar view. We understand that this will be difficult, and that the aviation industry will be short of resources, even as activity increases; however, we fear that the consequences of not embracing the chance to change will significantly impair the industry in the future.
We set ourselves the aim of improving trust and public confidence in the management of aviation noise in the UK – our ambition is that, in time, the UK becomes the world leader in managing aviation noise. Our activity throughout our first two-year work programme is underpinned by that focus and, as we enter our second year, we are ready to deliver a number of the reports and guidance that we have spent the first year researching and developing.
Our engagement also enabled us to identify where the priorities lay; for example, it led to us prioritising our review into the Survey of Noise Attitudes (SoNA) 2014, which plays a role informing government and airport expansion policy. We published our first report in December 2019, which contained a thorough review of SoNA and set out a clear roadmap for how we would develop a new approach to attitudinal surveys.
We have since contracted a research agency to help us design the new series of surveys and, with the involvement of communities, government and regulators, industry, and academia, we will make recommendations on the next series of surveys later this year.
Our other priorities in year one included developing best practice for airports on consulting and engaging during airspace change design; and investigating and establishing an opinion on the complex issue of noise metrics. Having prepared to publish these in April 2020, once the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic – and its impact on the aviation industry – was clear, we decided to postpone delivering these two pieces of work while the communities and Government is rightly focussed on the immediate effects of the pandemic. We set out new plans for our publications in the tables in the Annex.
It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise, we are determined to ensure that decisions taken in how the aviation industry rebuilds maximise the opportunity to improve noise management and mitigation and are as informed as possible.
As the industry begins to recover, our work in giving guidance on noise management will be more important than ever. While some of our work programme deliverables this year will be delayed due to the pandemic (through its impact on our own resources, and on those of partners we are working with), we will also be using the unique opportunity of such quiet skies to capture data – both quantitative and qualitative – about the use of the skies and people’s attitudes towards aviation noise during the pandemic. However, our work programme that we set out last year will remain the focus of our work over the coming months.
We intend to publish our opinion on metrics – postponed from April this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic – by the end of July 2020. In this report we will set out a roadmap towards publishing best practice on noise measurement, data use and transparency. It is clear to us that much needs to be done to increase public trust and understanding in the way in which aviation noise is measured and communicated to the public, and we will set out our role in providing direction, best practice and examples for the industry and government to follow.
As well as postponing our metrics work in April, we also held back the work we have done on a best practice toolkit on consultation for airspace change sponsors. One impact of Covid-19 is that nearly all airports have paused their airspace change processes, and the airspace modernisation programme has also been delayed. It is therefore unlikely that sponsors will be proceeding through the consultation stages of CAP1616, the CAA’s guidance on how to make airspace change proposals, any time soon.
We believe that airspace modernisation could be an important tool in managing the impact of aviation noise on communities, and once this programme, and the airspace change processes associated with it, has resumed we stand ready to deliver our best practice toolkit as well as other elements of our work programme relating to airspace changes, set out in the tables in the Annex.
During the summer of 2020 we will be collating and analysing quantitative and qualitative data on aviation noise and activity during what is the new normal of a quieter period in the skies. We hope this data will provide a unique baseline of how the skies are used in such low levels of activity, and shine a light on the way in which industry and community behaviours change when faced with such a crisis.
Depending on what this analysis shows, we intend to continue with such research over the coming year to 18 months as the industry recovers – by building such an evidence base we will be able to make more informed recommendations to government and stakeholders as the industry rebuilds and activity increases.
Our work throughout 2020 continues to be focussed around our one main priority of advising the government on the future of aviation noise regulation and management. Given the impact of Covid-19 on aviation activity and the industry itself, we anticipate our views on the future of regulation evolving over the coming months.
But we continue to work towards providing that advice by the end of 2020. Our report will also draw in our work on insulation and planning and land use – both of which overlap with our consideration about the future of regulation.
We are already clear that there will be an ongoing and evolving role for an independent noise body such as ICCAN in providing national leadership on the issue of managing aviation noise, whether it be through setting standards for noise measurements or insulation, leading on identifying the public health impacts of aviation noise, or advising government or planning authorities on expansion plans or airspace changes
and there is lots more. There are charts showing objectives, and progress made, on a range of subjects, in the Annex.