UK commission wants clearer noise reporting from airports

Photo: (ICCAN)

As the airline industry takes its first steps towards recovery, the UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) is calling on airports to be clear about how they monitor and report noise. It says that this is needed to enable local communities to better understand how it impacts their lives.

The ICCAN was established by the British Government in January 2019 to act as the credible and impartial voice on all matters relating to civil aviation noise and how it affects communities. Its wider work includes producing guidance and advice for industry and regulators on the planning system, insultation schemes and airport operations. It is currently researching how the recent lower levels of aviation activity may be affecting attitudes to aircraft noise.

Noting that aviation noise impacts the lives of thousands of people living near airports or under their flightpaths every day it said that the way those impacts are assessed, managed, and mitigated is inconsistent and at times non-existent. It added that looking ahead, noise management must be improved if the industry is going to have a sustainable future.

The Commission has today (July 16) published a review of the way UK airports collect, analyse, and publish noise data. It was originally due for publication in April but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It explains the various metrics airports use to assess noise exposure and makes recommendations that it hopes will provide a better understanding of aviation noise.

ICCAN’s findings and recommendations:

  • Metrics currently used for noise monitoring should continue, but ICCAN recommends that supplementary metrics should routinely be published by airports to better reflect the way in which noise is experienced on the ground.
  • The approach to noise monitoring around the UK is neither consistent nor clear to stakeholders; ICCAN says it will develop best practice guidance for UK airports on the approach, standards and quantity of aviation noise recording and monitoring.
  • ICCAN will develop best practice guidance for airports on the temporary provision of noise monitors for local communities.
  • Noise data transparency should improve. ICCAN says its best practice will include standards for the publication of data to enable communities to track changes and trends around airports.
  • The air traffic movement (ATM) threshold of 50,000 which acts as a trigger for the publication of prescribed noise data should be lowered but applied proportionately and, potentially, tiered.
  • ICCAN says it will provide national leadership and set standards for metrics by developing and publishing such best practice guidance in the months to come.

Rob Light, head commissioner of ICCAN, commented: “Noise metrics are a complex issue. This is something that we’ve heard time and time again from communities who feel that they are not as transparent and accessible as they could be. Metrics are crucial for measuring noise as it enables people to understand who is exposed and what potential impact it may have on their health and quality of life.

“The aviation industry has been through an uncertain and difficult time. But as planes return to the skies, we’re calling on airports to do more to demystify what metrics mean and make their noise data more readily available for people to access and understand.”

Simon Kahn, ICCAN commissioner and acoustician added: “Unfortunately, there is no magic metric that will help to easily explain noise, but our report makes some recommendations that we feel could have a real difference to local communities and help airports be more transparent.

“By improving people’s understanding of noise data, they will be more engaged and be able to contribute to the discussions while also making their views heard.

“We feel this could go some way towards improving relationships and rebuilding trust between airports and those communities by noise.”

Following the publication of the report, ICCAN said it will begin work on producing some best practice guidance for airports on how to record, process and publish noise data.