A review of Aviation Noise Management in the EU

A review of Aviation Noise Management in the EU

March 21, 2019

What aviation stakeholders, including communities, say about the results

The health implications of aviation noise are well documented and often represent a major source of objection to airport developments. Legislation exists to help manage and mitigate the impacts of such noise, however, the transposition of regulations into European Member State law differs from state to state, as does the efficacy of such measures.

The ANIMA project strives to better understand noise impact mitigation in the EU, with the aim of developing new tools to manage and mitigate the impact of aviation noise. It was therefore deemed important to, as a first step in the ANIMA project, to review existing regulations and mitigation strategies and to determine the extent to which policy and practice have enabled effective implementation of ICAO’s Balanced Approach to noise impact mitigation.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University together with other ANIMA project partners carried out a pan-European review of aviation noise impact mitigation strategies and reviewed the key findings with Impacts and Balanced Approach Expert Committee (IBAEC) to ascertain the veracity of the findings. The committee is formed of a range of stakeholders representing the aviation industry, including local public authorities, local communities, airports, freight organisations and national and international aviation bodies. This consultation also gave the committee the opportunity to make additional comments and contributions.

Pan-European Review of Existing Regulations and Mitigation Strategies

What ANIMA did:

The pan-European review was driven by the use of data capture forms completed by work package partners and their networks. These were supplemented by local documentation and from each nation. The aim here was to identify different approaches to noise impact mitigation in the EU Member States and different patterns of implementation. This process was followed by a series of elite stakeholder interviews conducted by a Manchester Metropolitan University researcher to understand how and why the patterns identified through the template forms have developed. When coupled with the Impacts and Balanced Approach Expert Committee, this research approach represented an in-depth review informed and validated with input from experts and industry stakeholders alike to give a clear picture of the current state-of-the-art on airport noise management in the European Union.

Key Findings

The research found that whilst the transposition of the Environmental Noise Directive and the ICAO Balanced Approach into national legislation had been largely successful, several challenges and future research priorities remain. These include:

  • There is no one size fits all solution to aviation noise: each airport requires its own solutions based on its specific characteristics. In other words, the Balanced Approach implementation needs to be tailored to the requirements of individual airports.
  • Although there is a comprehensive noise policy framework at the European level and associated policy at the national level, there remains gaps in the implementation of noise mitigation measures.
  • There are significant issues regarding land-use planning around airports rooted in competing priorities for local authorities and airport operators, and a lack of clear and robust legislation to protect airports from encroachment by incompatible land uses.
  • There are many stakeholders who have the potential to mitigate aviation noise. Collaboration amongst all stakeholders (including airport communities) seems essential in mitigating noise exposure and impact effectively.
  • There are multiple areas requiring further research that can inform best practice, not least regarding issues such as quality of life of airport communities; the efficacy of different balanced approach interventions in reducing noise exposure and annoyance; how communities can be effectively engaged with on aviation noise; and, more detailed understanding the factors influencing expressed noise annoyance.

Perspectives and Opinions from Aviation Stakeholders, including Local Communities

The Impacts and Balanced Approach Expert Committee (IBAEC) exists to gain input from airport end-users and important stakeholders on airport noise, to validate the findings of the ANIMA project, to help guide the recommendations as to how best to reduce noise exposure and associated impacts in the aviation sector, and thereby inform the ANIMA research agenda. The committee will meet regularly throughout ANIMA through workshops that will take place in different locations across Europe.

The ANIMA researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University organised a workshop at London Heathrow Airport on 18thof May 2018 where the key findings of this research were presented to members of the Impacts and Balanced Approach Expert Committee (IBAEC). Following this presentation (also provided in report format to members), a round table discussion took place about the research and its findings.

Core messages from this workshop include:

  • The ICAO Balanced Approach is a good basis for action to reduce noise exposure, but guidance is required on the appropriate use and efficacy of different elements.
  • Given that it is never possible to reduce noise exposure to zero, it is necessary to engage with affected communities, and to consider the issue in the context of the costs and benefits that accrue to them from living near to the airport, and of aviation in general.
  • It is important that such engagement is a two-way process of dissemination from the airport to communities, and listening by the airport about community concerns, insight and priorities.
  • All airports, of any size, need to consider aircraft noise and anticipate the consequences of growth. The 50,000-movement figure for the application of the European Noise Directive is too simplistic and needs to be reconsidered, for instance by having a pre-qualification criterion that requires airports to begin the process of building noise management capacity and engagement with stakeholders, particularly on the issue land-use planning.
  • Management of noise impacts needs to be informed by quality data. Existing reliance upon noise modelling outputs or complaints analysis to inform Balanced Approach implementation can lead to sub-optimal outcomes. Appropriate engagement and dialogue between airports and their surrounding communities is an important pre-requisite to assessing the nature and extent of noise problems and appropriate responses. Further policy and good practice guidance would help to facilitate this.
  • It is clear that the industry is committed to reducing noise impact, but doing so requires collaboration across the board, between aviation stakeholders, and between different airports to exchange best practice.
  • There needs to be greater attention paid to the evaluation of the impact of Balanced Approach interventions, and how much they are communicated to the public. Another ANIMA set of activities (Reducing noise impact and improving quality of life by addressing annoyance) will help to provide insight into this issue.
  • Land use planning is also a critical element of the Balanced Approach as it can, help to reduce noise impact felt by residents (i.e. through insulation) and help to stop the development of noise sensitive buildings near airports.
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