Government rejects noise findings in aviation survey

A six-year study into the impact of aircraft noise will not affect policy as its findings are not robust enough, the Department for Transport (DfT) said last week.

The survey of almost 3,000 people reveals that annoyance caused by aircraft noise has increased since the previous study in 1982.

While the original research found little relationship between annoyance and aircraft numbers, the latest results indicate the reverse.

The government has argued that annoyance is linked to the noise from each aeroplane rather than the number of aircraft, as campaigners have contended.

Transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick said the government would take the report's findings into account when developing policy. Heathrow Airport's expansion must not increase the area where people experience the highest noise levels, he added.

But Fitzpatrick admitted that it is impossible to identify any particular level at which noise becomes a serious problem.

Campaigners against Heathrow's expansion accused the government of running away from its own study's results. The government claimed that aircraft noise starts to annoy when it averages 57 decibels yet the study shows that 50 decibels is more accurate, they said.

More than two million people experience levels of 50 decibels from Heathrow, compared with 258,000 who live in the 57-decibel area.

The government is due to launch its three-month consultation on the expansion of Heathrow on 21 December. This will investigate various options for increasing airport capacity, such as maximising use of both runways and building a third.

London Borough of Wandsworth leader Edward Lister maintained that the government has only published the report because of fears of legal action by local authorities. Several requests for publication under the Freedom of Information Act have been refused, he added.

In September, Fitzpatrick said he did not think that it was necessary to publish the study before the expansion consultation. A DfT spokesman said ministers only received the report last week.

But Lister criticised this position. "The government is desperate for this not to be linked to policy. If it is then ministers cannot have a third runway," he insisted.

- Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc.


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