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Flight Blight – the environmental and social costs of aviation expansion

11th February 2020

For many people, aircraft noise is a real problem. Research shows that aircraft noise is more ‘annoying’ than road or rail noise and that we are becoming increasingly sensitive to it.

Cover of Flight Blight reportTolerance to aircraft noise is about more than the noise level, non-acoustic, socio-psychological factors play a key role, including expectations. If you are ‘expecting’ peace and quiet, for example in the countryside, then noise is much more ‘annoying.’ People who ‘trust’ an airport find aircraft noise less ‘annoying.’ Other European countries monitor and report at lower noise threshold levels than the UK as this better reflects people’s experience of aircraft noise.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) provides Independent advice to government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change. It has recommended that the government plans for international aviation and shipping to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and that this should be reflected in the government’s forthcoming Aviation Strategy. The CCC states that it will be necessary to reduce actual emissions from the aviation sector. Until now, there has been a natural cap on aviation emissions due to runway capacity. If greater capacity is supported, then there will be unwanted growth in carbon emissions.

We believe that;

  • The UK should monitor and report at lower noise threshold levels as this better reflects people’s experience of aircraft noise. Non acoustic, socio-psychological factors should be given a raised priority in the design of noise management strategies.
  • Government should commission independent research into the impact of aviation noise on health, especially in relation to night flights, to accommodate recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) should be given statutory powers so that communities develop more trust in the aviation industry. ICCAN should become an ombudsman so that complaints can be dealt with in an independent way.
  • The government should include aviation emissions within the net zero greenhouse gas emissions target as recommended by the CCC and this should use a consistent approach that includes emissions above 3,000ft. Further aviation expansion should be ruled out on climate grounds.

To70 Noise Report [PDF 5MB]
New Noise Pollution Study
Flight Blight CPRE [PDF 2.7MB]