Developing solutions to alleviate annoyance encountered by communities surrounding airport areas was the main topic of the event organised by the European project ANIMA (Aviation Noise Impact Management through novel Approaches) in Brussels on 18 February 2019.
Held on the premises of and organised by the Airport Regions Conference, the organisation representing cities and regions with an airport on their territory, this conference brought together local communities, noise experts, spatial planners, academia, researchers and policy-makers. The audience of some 80 attendees explored the ways in which land use planning can help lower noise in airport areas. The morning session was dedicated to new approaches and tools developed by ANIMA, whereas the afternoon session highlighted actual feedback from airport managers and neighbours.
Laurent Leylekian (ONERA, France), ANIMA coordinator, underlined the increasing concerns about aviation noise concluding that it is our common duty to bring solutions and to propose consensual ways of addressing the issue with all the involved parties, including communities, both to preserve the competitiveness of the European aviation sector and the highest living standards of our fellow European citizens. In this regard, land use planning and management is considered as an effective means to ensure that the activities nearby airports are compatible with aviation, while at the same time ensuring communities have an appropriate quality of life.
Daniele Violato of INEA (Innovation and Networks Executive Agency), the agency implementing the Horizon 2020 projects, highlighted the importance of involving the communities in the land use planning process. He also strongly advised the ANIMA partners to continue coordinating national and European research activities on airport noise, to maintain and enrich the aviation noise research roadmap and to build synergies with other on-going projects.
Land use planning takes into consideration environmental aspects of development and to that point Marco Paviotti from the European Commission (DG ENV), presented the environmental legislation, and its impact on aviation noise. Dirk Schreckenberg, senior researcher at ZEUS (Centre for Applied Psychology, Social and Environmental Research) emphasised that noise is an environmental stressor and health is impacted by noise through annoyance which acts as a mediator. Annoyance can be reduced either by reducing the sound levels and/or by improving the capacity to cope with noise.
Ferenc Marki, associate professor at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, presented one of the key ANIMA developments: the Virtual Community Tool, which enables researchers to give account to people’s annoyance based on various parameters from users. When describing the tool, he explained that – based on existing or planned flight traffic data – this tool will be able to compute and present on maps various acoustical data as well as annoyance-related descriptors (at current status: the so-called awakening indicator) around airports. The tool’s user-friendly interface will allow even non-expert users to easily modify flight traffic (e.g. rescheduling flights, limiting the use of runways at certain times, replacing flight paths) and then see the effect of the changes. This will provide us a clearer view of the impact that the airport activities have on the surrounding population.
To better highlight the importance of dialogue and collaboration between airports and local communities, four case studies were part of the programme: Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Metropolitan Region, Frankfurt Airport and Frankfurt Metropolitan Region, London Heathrow and Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, and Vienna Airport and Vienna Airport Dialogue Forum Association.
The airports presented the rules they have to cope with to avoid new dwellings under noise footprints in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands and how they are implemented. For instance, Heathrow Airport opted for the new Noise Action Plan (2019-2023), which focuses on bringing tailored solutions to specific issues when it comes to new dwellings. A key point emerging from the talks is that airport-related considerations on land-use planning are conflicting with, and have to be considered along with more comprehensive concerns on regional development and the need for new housing. Therefore, there is most of the time no ideal solution but only best possible consensus. In these conditions, Dominique Lazarski, the president of UECNA (European Union against Aircraft Nuisance) remarked: transparent communication is essential for building trustful relations with the residents. These case studies proved that working with communities is crucial and involving them at a strategic level allows them to contribute to and therefore to accept some consensus.