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Noise, air quality and climate concerns must be addressed in regard to aviation policy, says Assembly


Noise, air quality and climate change are serious concerns that must be addressed, both now and in the future, the London Assembly today says.

In its response to the Government’s Draft Aviation Policy Framework consultation[1], the Assembly’s Health and Environment Committee welcomes the Government’s commitment to establishing a framework that more strongly incentivises noise reduction and mitigation. It suggests an independent body should administer the airport mitigation and compensation schemes, which could help to rebuild the trust that has been lost by local communities.

The response says noise measurement should be consistent[2], the detrimental impact on local residents should be reduced, and suggests airports work together to organise flight times to help reduce noise[3].

The Committee makes the case for developing combined noise maps for Heathrow and London City Airport, as residents are increasingly affected by the combined impact of aircraft noise from both airports. At the moment, noise contours for the two airports are drawn up separately.

The response concludes runway alternation is a valuable way of providing relief from aircraft noise, and does not back changes that would be detrimental to local residents’ health. Analysis of data from the first phase of trials[4], which allowed aircraft take-off and landing patterns outside of the normal times, show that a noticeable increase in the frequency and noise from aircraft significantly affected residents’ quality of life.

In a bid to meet the national target[5] to reduce emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, the Committee calls for a phased approach with short, medium and long term milestones, and these should be legally binding. The response also welcomes the Committee on Climate Change’s[6] advice to Government earlier this year that aviation should be included in the five-yearly carbon budget system.

The Committee also looked at air quality around Heathrow, where areas are already in breach of European Union air quality limits. The response refers to two earlier reports[7] by the Assembly, which included concerns about the inadequacy of existing and proposed transport measures to mitigate air pollution levels, and recommended increased use of greener, quieter aircraft and reducing airport-related road traffic.

The London Assembly reaffirmed its position on Heathrow this year, unanimously opposing expansion at Heathrow[8]. To tackle the environmental impacts of aviation, the consultation response also makes recommendations on research into developing cleaner aircraft and fuel technology.

Murad Qureshi AM, Chair of the Health and Environment Committee, said:

“Tackling the impacts of aviation is a big issue, both globally and for the people who live close to airports and bear the brunt of the detrimental effects. They could be in danger of serious health consequences.

“As politicians and experts gear up to discuss various options for airport expansion, there are understandably concerns that more runways and airports will bring increased noise and emissions which will seriously affect local residents’ quality of life.

“It is absolutely critical that the Government gets the policy right and develops the best available advice for airport operators. We urge the Government to take on board these concerns.”

Notes to editors:

1. Read more about the Government’s draft Aviation Policy Framework
2. The Assembly is concerned with two key aspects of this approach: the measurement used and the threshold that is applied. The 57 dB LAeq contour, the level at which the Government deems individuals become annoyed at noise, does not fully reflect the numbers of people affected by aircraft noise and is inconsistent with EU requirements for drawing up noise action plans. The Assembly believes the Government should take the opportunity to review the approach to measuring noise levels, and bring it in line with EU requirements.
3. The Assembly welcomes the Government’s commitment to see Airport Consultative Committees play a more effective role. In London there is a growing need for inter-relationship between the Heathrow and London City Airports’ consultative committees and the consultation response considers the merits of enhancing arrangements for inter-airport liaison.
4. BAA’s Operational Freedoms Trial (Heathrow) (
5. Target set out in Climate Change Act 2008 – reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent below the 1990 baseline by 2050
6. Read more about the Committee on Climate Change’s advice
7. The Committee has built up a considerable body of work on the environmental impacts of aviation. Read our reports, Flights of Fancy, January 2010, which warned of a lack of co-ordinated mitigation measures to reduce nitrogen dioxide around Heathrow, highlighted concerns over a disproportionate reliance on aircraft technology, and raised concerns about the inadequacy of existing and proposed transport measures to mitigate air pollution levels, and Plane Speaking, March 2012. which called for increased use of greener, quieter aircraft, ensuring on-site vehicles meet the latest EU emissions standards, and reducing airport-related road traffic.
8. Motion passed at 11 July 2012 Assembly Plenary meeting.
9 Murad Qureshi AM, Chair of the Health and Environment Committee, is available for interview. See contact details below.
10. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.


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