Skip to main content


Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions her Department has had or plans to have on the past and potential future impact of (a) changes in noise levels permitted from individual aircraft and (b) changes in the size of aircraft upon (i) past increases and future total passenger and freight numbers and (ii) past and future (A) economic, (B) environmental and (C) social impacts; and what representations have been received on these matters. (181618)

The White Paper “The Future of Air Transport” White Paper set out our key aim to limit and where possible reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise.

In the White Paper, we highlighted the importance of promoting research and development work on quieter aircraft and airframe technology. We are pursuing this aim through both international and national forums.

Although technological change is a long-term issue, the aviation industry has made encouraging progress in addressing the noise of the airline fleet. For example, the newest generation of wide-bodied aircraft is expected to make significantly less noise on arrival than the largest aircraft currently operating. We have also seen the introduction of new engines which include innovations to reduce noise and improve fuel efficiency.

Possible future technological change and related impacts are taken into account in our forecasting. For example, the current consultation on the future expansion of Heathrow (Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport) has been prepared against this background. Paragraph 3.82 of the consultation document notes that although there were 73 per cent. more aircraft movements in 2005 compared with 1975, the number of people significantly affected by noise has fallen by 87 per cent. and the area affected reduced by 86 per cent. In addition, the night flights regime introduced in October 2006 at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted recognises technological change by providing incentives for introducing quieter aircraft. The regime was only introduced after an extensive two-stage public consultation exercise.

All major UK airports (i.e. 50,000 annual movements or above) have been required to map aircraft noise in compliance with the European environmental noise directive. Later this year, the airports will have to prepare strategic noise action plans setting out noise mitigation measures. These plans will have to be prepared in consultation with the local community and as such provide an opportunity for relevant local issues to be considered. In addition, we regularly receive representations on aircraft noise issues which help inform the Department’s policy making.