During the last three decades, governments, airports and local communities sought and fought for a fair balance between the interests of the people who live around an airport – putting up with the pollution and annoyances generated by the airport – and the interest of the whole community that use the airport as an essential infrastructure for transport and communications, generating employment and strengthening the economy. The legal and policy debate has focused on terms of gross domestic product, decibels and number of people affected.
This debate is blocked. The dialogue between airport policymakers and local communities in some cities can no longer be shaped in terms of opposing figures, economic benefits vs people and decibels, as the annoyances are still there and growing day by day. A new approach is needed for European airports and communities.
The very concept of “quality of life“, is getting more attention from academics, from industry and from the general public. Quality of life can be defined as a combination of (objective) environmental factors and (subjective) reflections on current and future wellbeing.
The concept of quality of life could allow for a better balance between the full range of annoyances and the benefits of aviation. Airport policymakers do acknowledge that the concept of quality of life has potential. Still, the gap between academic research and operational practice is very real. Projects related to the quality of life in the aviation sector remain for a vast part scientifically undocumented.
ANIMA provides a framework to make the concept of quality of life operational
Quality of life may appear as a concept that is too “fuzzy” for operational use. Yet, we believe if airports were to be provided with practical and scientifically motivated tools, they would be able to implement quality of life successfully in their annoyance strategy.
ANIMA has performed a literature review beyond the field of aviation and noise, encompassing human factors in general. After that, it compiled, read and classified the information with a rigorous process.
The research revealed the use of 52 indicators spread out over nine dimensions:
- Material living conditions
- Economic and physical safety
- Leisure and social activities
- Natural and living environment
- Other indicators
For each dimension, ANIMA reviewed suitable indicators and assessed their relevance to airports. Moreover, ANIMA received inputs from some European airports (Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Iasi). Some of them already have projects related to the quality of life.
Based on these reviewed and interviews, ANIMA has developed a conceptual audit framework which will let airports improve their current noise mitigation activities in this area with a more systematic and critical approach to quality of life. Please see full document here.
The audit framework would allow airports to categorise their existing quality of life interventions against a comprehensive list of quality of life topics and dimensions and they will able to:
- Identify the range and performance of their quality of life activities
- understand how these relate to the quality of life topics and dimensions
- develop a rationale for why certain dimensions/topics may be out of the scope of other noise indicators, and
- highlight priority areas for development to minimise noise annoyance
It is important to remember that all changes, even interventions for improved quality of life, have winners and losers. Assuming the airport is already within legal limits, the audit framework developed by ANIMA can be used to review existing measures in a single coherent overview. It is then the shared responsibility of the airport policymakers and of the community to set priorities among the dimensions and to select the indicators for tracking performance and also to set goals to strive for.
The participation of local and regional authorities and communities is desirable for three main reasons:
- Community input makes it easier to set local priorities
- Different groups among the community can be heard
- The responsibility of the outcome (both positive and negative) is shared
Together, airport and community can use the concept of quality of life, the indicators and the audit framework to improve airport community relations and make more effective interventions that provide real benefit to those living near an airport.