Departing ICCAN tell Aviation Minister that the aircraft noise issue should be dealt with by an independent body, with “clout”
The DfT decided, at the start of September, that the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) would be closed down at the end of September. This happened even though there is no replacement for them, to give an independent voice on aircraft noise issues. The Commissioners have written to the Aviation Minster, Robert Courts. In their letter they say, on the breakdown of trust by overflown communities, the government and the aviation industry: “That breakdown was simplistically interpreted as an issue between airports and communities, although our work has revealed that there was also a disconnect between Government policy, regulation, industry and community ambitions.” And “We hope you will look objectively at who is best to carry ICCAN’s work forward and we offer our views in good faith. However, for the vast majority of our work it is hard not to conclude that only a body independent of Government and aviation regulation, empowered with sufficient clout by the Government, can deliver a coherent programme for change in how aviation noise is managed.”
Letter from the ICCAN Commissioners to the Aviation Minister
Robert Courts MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
30 September 2021
I write on behalf of the ICCAN Commissioners to set out our final advice on the most pressing noise issues and how the ICCAN work should be progressed. We have taken account of the ICCAN secretariat’s early discussions with DfT and CAA staff; however, these are our recommendations as independent Commissioners.
We have set out our recommendations for each area of work in terms of priority, risks and who best to do it in the annex to this letter.
You will have been made aware of the concerns at the change of approach to aviation noise management from many aviation stakeholders, which appears to have reduced public confidence in both the Department and the Government on aviation noise issues.
ICCAN was set up because the Airports Commission recognised that relationships between parties on aviation noise were fractured and an impediment to aviation growth. That breakdown was simplistically interpreted as an issue between airports and communities, although our work has revealed that there was also a disconnect between Government policy, regulation, industry and community ambitions.
In a very short time ICCAN has identified shared views between airports and communities on the outcomes required. Our Future of Aviation Noise Management report set out the route map to achieve those outcomes. The delivery of this process is the key challenge and risk for Government. In our view, failure to do so will lead to a reversion to previous ways of working and negative behaviour, which will restrain recovery, restrict growth and almost certainly make airspace modernisation undeliverable in any reasonable timescale.
We hope you will look objectively at who is best to carry ICCAN’s work forward and we offer our views in good faith. However, for the vast majority of our work it is hard not to conclude that only a body independent of Government and aviation regulation, empowered with sufficient clout by the Government, can deliver a coherent programme for change in how aviation noise is managed.
As independent commissioners we know that much of ICCAN’s planned future work is anticipated by both industry and Communities so it is important this is carried on to a conclusion, even if not necessarily in the way we would have delivered it.
Aviation Noise will be a growing issue as aviation recovers, as the interim findings of the ICCAN 2021 Summer Survey demonstrates, with those bothered by aviation noise during the day increasing significantly and those bothered by aviation noise at night more than doubling since 2020.
We have no doubt that the need for a voice independent of Government and industry on aviation noise will continue and we would urge any future consideration of the issue to ensure that successor bodies are given full operational independence.
The ICCAN Commissioners
Robert Light Colin Noble Simon Henley
Head Commissioner ICCAN Commissioner ICCAN Commissioner
Simon Kahn Howard Simmons
ICCAN Commissioner ICCAN Commissione
After two and a half years, Government closes down the ICCAN
The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was finally set up by the government in March 2019, with the aim of looking into how the extra noise from airport expansion would affect those overflown, and the impacts of changes to flight paths. Its aim was not to reduce the amount of aircraft noise suffered, but to find out more about it, consult etc. Its creation had been a recommendation of the Airports Commission in June 2015, to make Heathrow expansion seem less unpalatable. Now Robert Courts, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, has announced that it is to be wound up at the end of September. Back in June 2015 ICCAN had said it would take them two years to: “Review existing enforcement mechanisms and consider whether enforcement powers are necessary”. It had been stated in 2019 that “ICCAN will be reviewed in two years’ time and a decision will be made about its future direction as an organisation, including whether to give it increased powers. In the meantime, ICCAN’s role is threefold: to listen, to evaluate and to advise.” The government now says its role will mainly be taken on by the CAA, and part by the DfT. That will not bring reassurance to those suffering from aircraft noise problems.
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.
ICCAN produces review and 6 recommendations about aviation noise metrics and their measurement
The issue of plane noise has been of great concern to hundreds of thousands of people, for ages. ICCAN was set up in 2019 to look into the problem, seeing if there might be ways to manage it better, and for people to be considered more – and their noise concerns taken seriously. One key problem is how noise is measured, and therefore how overflown communities can get factual data on the noise they are experiencing. This is complicated. Acoustics is not a simple science, and especially difficult to explain in plain English to laypeople. The noise an area suffers depends on the number of planes overhead, their height, their type, what they are doing at the time, the frequency of the flights overhead, the time of day (or night) and the background level of noise an area already experiences. Traditionally aircraft noise is averaged over a period of time. That provides numbers that can be compared to other places and other times. But it makes no sense to those being affected. But nobody hears an average of plane noise. They hear a number of separate noisy events. Now ICCAN has produced a review of aircraft noise metric and their measurement, and their six recommendations, for how improvements should be made.