Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Aviation Environment Federation (IT 92)


  The AEF is pleased that the Select Committee is addressing the issues raised in the above White Paper. The AEF would like to draw the following points to the Committee's attention.

  1. A National Aviation Policy. In its response to the Government's consultation on an integrated transport policy, the AEF stated that:

    "2.1 From an environmental viewpoint, providing new and additional infrastructure for aviation has global as well as local impacts. However, in the absence of a UK aviation policy, consideration of the benefits and disbenefits of aerodrome development is confined to the planning system. Important questions such as whether demand should always be met are not considered. This way of looking at the subject of airport provision sits uneasily with some other aspects of the UK Government's policy and commitments, especially in relation to sustainable development."


    "2.5 From an environmental perspective, it should be noted that the industry remains largely self-regulated. Several Government departments and agencies are responsible for the regulation of the aviation industry in the UK, but it is the planning system which carries the biggest burden when assessing new airport development proposals. In this context, it is essential that the Government is urged to develop a national airports policy in order to steer airport development to the most appropriate locations, whilst providing the different regulators with a common goal."

  On this basis, the AEF welcomes the Government's undertaking to prepare a national airports policy which will provide guidance for the next 30 years or so. We particularly support the Government's stance on ensuring that the policy will take account of aviation's external costs. However, the Federation remains concerned that there is no definitive timetable for the preparation and implementation of a national airports policy. Aviation is currently the fastest growing transport mode and its environmental impacts, both locally and globally, are attracting increasing attention. Paragraph 3.190 of the White Paper states that the policy will take account of the Inspector's report on the Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry. Given the inquiry's slow progress and the time usually required to produce such reports, this statement suggests that a policy will not be produced in the short term. Furthermore, as already mentioned, there are important issues which inquiries are unable to address: the scale of the Terminal 5 inquiry requires it to take account of such considerations and, therefore, a decision should only be taken with reference to a national airports policy. We urge the Committee to recommend to the Government that it does not delay in its preparation of an airports policy, and that it sets out a timetable for its publication.

  2. Aircraft Noise and Emissions. The AEF also welcomes the Government's intention to press for tighter worldwide standards for aircraft noise and emissions, and, as part of a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, to pursue the removal of the current tax exemption on kerosene with ICAO and to examine the potential for environmental levies.

  3. Noise from Aerodromes. Responding to the Government's consultation paper the AEF highlighted current and future airport noise exposure trends:

    "While technological improvements have a role to play in reducing aircraft noise at source, they cannot, as often claimed by the industry, overcome the need for operational restrictions at airports. The fact that aircraft are becoming comparatively quieter can paint a misleading picture: the benefits are likely to be eroded by two trends, namely the growth in aircraft movements and increases in the average size of aircraft (since the certification standards permit heavier aircraft to produce more noise yet remain within the Chapter 3 regulations, it is possible that large aircraft in this category can produce more noise than the smaller Chapter 2 aircraft they replace). Unless operational controls are applied, the overall noise impact at many airports is likely to worsen as a higher incidence of aircraft noise events extends noise exposure contours over a wider geographical area . . . In the UK, operational controls can only be imposed through the planning system or through Government designation. The planning system can apply conditions which can be used to limit the number of permitted movements, the types of aircraft and the hours during which the airport can operate. Planning agreements (Section 106 Obligations) offer a more flexible approach to the negotiation of controls, including frameworks for Environmental Management Systems. Planning conditions and agreements should be applied where possible, but the use of development control to regulate airport operations has its limitations. Not every airport expansion proposal will require scrutiny by the planning system: some airports, currently operating without any specific planning controls, have the necessary capacity to significantly intensify operations or offer new services (often at sensitive times, such as at night) which do not require the submission of an application and, hence, consideration of the associated environmental impacts; others have gained planning exemptions, most notably under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, which gives the operator deemed consent for a range of infrastructure projects including apron and terminal extensions and the construction of hangars and other operational buildings. In such cases, airport neighbours are wholly reliant upon the Department of Transport using its existing powers under the Civil Aviation Act to limit noise and vibration from aircraft operations. To date, these powers have been used in respect of only three airports. A new "Control of Aircraft Noise" proposal, capable of widespread application, was announced by the Department of Transport in March 1993 (although it supports the general principle, the AEF remains concerned about elements of the proposal, and provided oral and written evidence on this subject to the Select Committee in July 1993). Despite the Department's continued commitment to seeing the proposals enacted, no date exists for its planned introduction. In the absence of effective safeguarding legislation, the AEF urges the Government to introduce new legislation aimed at controlling aircraft noise as a matter of priority."

  The White Paper does propose measures to enable airports to make and enforce noise mitigation measures, and to enable local authorities to enforce noise mitigation agreements (both of which will require new legislation). The AEF would like to express its support for these proposals. However, like the proposed national airports policy, the AEF believes that a clear statement is required on the timetable for its introduction. Guidance is also required on the scope of noise mitigation agreements, together with examples of best practice.

Tim Johnson


23 September 1998

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