Bill to combat aviation noise and emissions

Several commitments to improve environmental controls at civil airports dating back as far as the 1998 transport White Paper are finally being honoured in the Civil Aviation Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on 9 June.

Among the Bill's environmental clauses is a new power for aerodrome authorities to fix their charges by reference to the emissions from particular aircraft or classes of aircraft. The Bill would also enable the Secretary of State to direct them to introduce emissions-related charges.

The Department for Transport says that these measures will enable airport operators to make a contribution to improving air quality where local exceedances of statutory standards for particulates or nitrogen oxides are occurring or likely.

The other environmental clauses deal with noise. Most controversial is a clause giving the Secretary of State more flexible powers to control aircraft noise at the three "designated aerodromes" of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

In place of the present cap on aircraft movements, he might be able to impose noise quotas or a limiting noise contour area. This would allow the number of flights to increase if quieter aircraft were introduced.

The legislation will confer powers on designated aerodromes to introduce penalty schemes for aircraft breaching noise control rules, and on the Secretary of State to direct that such a scheme be introduced. Penalties paid by aircraft operators are to be used for purposes "likely to be of benefit to persons who live in the area."

The Bill will also introduce discretionary powers for operators of non-designated aerodromes to make noise control schemes.

These may incorporate controls such as take-off or landing requirements or time limits, limits on flights by particular kinds of aircraft, or "other restrictions for limiting the cumulative amount of noise". Penalties for breaching these rules are provided for. The DfT acknowledges that reductions in noise disturbance are likely to be "modest".