Memorandum submitted by The Campaign to
Protect Rural England
1. CPRE welcomes the opportunity to contribute
to the Committee's inquiry into the work of the Civil Aviation
Authority (CAA). With rising levels of air traffic, the work of
the corporation is gaining even greater significance. We believe
the inquiry provides a timely opportunity to consider whether
the legislation establishing the corporation, as amended, is consistent
with today's challenges. Our submission focuses on the role of
the CAA, and how it interacts with interested parties.
CAA SHOULD BE
2. The CAA was established more than 30
years ago, and has been primarily concerned with the regulation
of airspace in order to address the needs of airspace users. At
that time, the concept of sustainable development had not been
invented. And while the needs of airlines and others remain important,
we believe the remit of the CAA should be re-examined in the light
of the Government's Sustainable Development Strategy, and increasing
evidence of the contribution of aviation to climate change. The
Sustainable Development Strategy commits the Government to assess
whether a specific sustainable development duty should be applied
to existing key bodies in priority areas" (page 157).
3. Although the CAA does have some environmental
responsibilities and a sustainable development and aviation environmental
policy statement, these have tended to be seen as subservient
to its primary objectives. For example, we note that when the
Department for Transport consulted on amending the CAA's responsibilities
in relation to noise in 2000, there was resistance from the CAA
to widening its brief. The DfT summary of consultation responses
to its Control of Noise from Civil Aircraft consultation said,
in relation to Section 5 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982:
Section 5 empowers the Secretary of
State to place a duty on the CAA to take environmental factors
(including noise and emissions) into account when licensing an
aerodrome specified for the purpose...The CAA had strongly favoured repeal of section 5,
with a view to maintaining the single focus of its aerodrome standards
department upon safety regulation".
4. According to the CAA's Annual Report
2005, none of the 12 directors have an environmental remit. Furthermore,
the corporation has a financial reliance on airline companies.
The Annual Report notes, the majority of the CAA's income is derived
from charges levied for its regulatory work, with the charge in
many areas based upon the physical movement of aircraft or passengers.
It has been reassuring to see sustained growth in the key activity
measures continuing on from the encouraging growth in volumes
that were experienced last year" (page 16). This risks generating
a conflict of interest with its environmental responsibilities.
We urge the Committee to examine how the CAA, as a Regulator,
can be made to be more independent of those that it seeks to regulate.
5. The Government has said that sustainable
development principles are central to its policies on air transport.
If true, then it is important that regulators are given duties
which are consistent with this approach. CPRE believes the CAA
should be placed under a new statutory duty to promote environmentally
sustainable development. Existing duties should be reviewed to
ensure they remain consistent with this new duty.
THE CAA SHOULD
6. The Government's Sustainable Development
Strategy contains five guiding principles, including `living within
environmental limits'. While fundamentally CPRE believes this
recognition should lead to a full review of the Air Transport
White Paper, the current position leaves Regulators like the CAA
in a difficult position. They should examine the environmental
implications of their activities (for example the impact of aircraft
noise on urban and rural communities), yet do not seem to be in
a position to question the desirability or otherwise of meeting
the air traffic forecasts. This means that their actions are quickly
relegated to mitigating for environmental damage rather than avoiding
it in the first place. We believe the CAA should perform an important
role in providing a feedback loop to Government by reporting on
how aircraft movements are affecting environmental limits. This
is likely to require a more sophisticated approach than simply
devising maps of community annoyance. CPRE also believes the CAA's
Sustainable development and aviation environmental policy statement,
which reflects the previous Sustainable Development Strategy and
is unambitious, should be updated.
7. The environmental impact of aviation
is not just found at, or in the vicinity of airports. Apart from
the crucial contribution of aviation to increasing climate change
emissions, the noise and visual impact of air movements also needs
to be considered further afield. The CAA fed into the consultation
prior to the publication of the Air Transport White Paper. Yet,
there appears not to have been an overview provided of what the
likely implications might be for air traffic management from a
significant increase in air passenger numbers. Changes to the
height and location of flight paths and stacking areas are made
on a piecemeal basis, preventing a proper assessment of the cumulative
impact of the changes required.
8. The CAA's Annual Report 2005, notes that
The Directorate is continuing to assess the implications of the
Aviation White Paper. Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) anticipates
significant and fundamental changes to airspace boundaries and
procedures in the Midlands and Southern England ...." (pages 43-44). The report goes on to explain
that Proposals from users flowing from the White Paper will initiate
a review of specific airspace and adjoining areas ... Councils, environmental groups and individuals
have already expressed great interest in potential changes"
(page 44). Yet, there was no public consultation over the CAA
Airspace Review" prior to the Aviation White Paper being
published, and no commitments have been made to examine this issue
in the round, rather than on a piecemeal basis. We urge the Committee
to consider the value of full public consultation of the CAA's
Airspace Policy, as a whole, in the light of the policies in the
Aviation White Paper.
9. In 2002 the Department for Transport,
Local Government and the Regions published guidance to the CAA
on how it should treat environmental considerations in undertaking
its activities. This included the specific requirement that the
Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) pursue policies that will
help to preserve the tranquillity of the countryside where this
does not increase significantly the environmental burdens on congested
areas" (paragraph 46).
10. CPRE is critical of the manner with
which the CAA has responded to this requirement. The assessments
which are undertaken of the effects of changes in flight paths
are developed entirely on the basis of the impact on designated
areas (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Yet, the presence and the value people place on the tranquillity
of the countryside is not confined to designated areas. The recent
consultation on changes to flight paths in the South West, for
example, highlighted the effect on eight AONBs and the Brecon
Beacons National Park, but not on the countryside between these
areas. The tranquillity of the countryside is one of the key qualities
which differentiates it from urban areas. We urge the Committee
to investigate how the CAA aims to protect the tranquillity of
the wider countryside.
11. The CAA also uses the same 57dB(A) leq
measure as the Government to assess the onset of community annoyance".
Based on averages, such figures fail to appreciate the intrusion
caused by noise from one-off events in sensitive environments
with low levels of background noise. The threshold has also been
established following research which predominantly concerned urban
areas, where there is a higher background level of noise. The
CAA's own consultation paper, NATs/MoD Joint Future Airspace
Development Team West End Airspace Change Proposal Consultation
2005, recognises that the evidence suggests that at low levels
aircraft noise measurement is not a good predicator of the degree
of annoyance". The World Health Organisation recommends that
50dB(A) be used as the threshold above which community annoyance
12. Work undertaken by respected consultants
TRL for CPRE, Aviation, Noise and the Countryside, highlights
that some people will still be affected by exposure to noise at
lower levels. CPRE believes there is an urgent need to commission
work examining the impact of infrequent noise incursions on tranquil
environments, and to re-evaluate the implications of air traffic
growth in the light of this. In the meantime, maps of 50dB(A)
contours should be produced to indicate clearly the number of
people and areas likely to be affected.
THE CAA SHOULD
13. A common frustration experienced by
CPRE volunteers has been the inaccessibility of the information
held by the CAA, and its arrangements for consultation. This is
illustrated in a number of ways, which cumulatively give the impression
of a corporation that is not accountable to the public, and yet
which makes key decisions affecting people's quality of life.
14. The CAA publishes a series of guidance
notes. CAP 725 covers Airspace Change Process Guidance.
This advises that sponsors of changes to flight paths are generally
not required to consult on an environmental statement for proposals
above 7,000 ft. A sponsor of a flight path change may appeal if
the proposed change is turned down by the CAA, yet no equivalent
exists for members of the public should it lead to unacceptable
harm to their quality of life. And the National Air Traffic Management
and Advisory Committee (NATMAC), the main ongoing consultative
mechanism on these issues, comprises airlines and users groups
amongst its membership but has no environmental representation.
CPRE believes the CAA needs to demonstrate its independence from
the airlines and other users if it is to secure confidence amongst
the public in its consultation processes.
15. The work of the CAA is extremely important
in ensuring public safety. A massive increase in passenger numbers
could lead to significant congestion in the skies, and yet we
have no effective overview of what the implications are. Current
arrangements for protecting the tranquillity of the countryside
from air traffic noise are inadequate. We believe there is an
important role for the CAA, provided with new statutory duties,
enhanced consultation requirements, and improved assessment processes,
to contribute towards a genuinely sustainable air transport policy.