A New Year message for 2021

By ICCAN Head Commissioner Rob Light

At the start of what promises to be another very eventful year, I want to send you best wishes on behalf of me, my fellow commissioners and the rest of the ICCAN team. 

Thinking back to last year, it strikes me just how much has changed over the last 12 months. After a busy first year in which we travelled round the country speaking to as many people as possible about aviation noise, I was setting out ICCAN’s ambitious work programme against a backdrop that included airport expansion and airspace modernisation. 

Now, as we mark two years of ICCAN, I am setting out our plans for 2021 against a landscape that has been dramatically altered. With fewer aircraft in the skies, our plans must reflect an aviation industry seeking to recover in the midst of great uncertaintyAnd while our engagement has continued, those conversations have shifted online and will remain so for the foreseeable future.    

While some of the timings in our initial work programme were adjusted to reflect the impact of Covid-19, ICCAN still delivered our key pieces of work despite the circumstances 

These included a comprehensive review of existing noise metrics and measurements, an online toolkit for airports as they seek to consult the public on airspace change, a review of the existing evidence examining the relationship between noise and health, and best practice for airports as they seek to engage with communities about aviation noise.  

We also wanted to understand the impact of this dramatic slowdown in aviation, so undertook a survey to try and capture people’s experiences of the changes during lockdown, something that we intend to repeat this year as aviation levels increase.  

In October, we published and sought views on ICCAN’s emerging view on the future of aviation noise managementOver eight weeks we received feedback from more than 220 people through our online survey and just under 70 more across six focus groups. I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to read this document and give us their views.  

We were keen to test some of our emerging thinking and are grateful for the wealth of helpful feedback we received which we will help shape our future work. We recognise how aviation noise is managed in the future is critical for the future of the industry and communities. We will publish our views on what that future should look like in the spring. 

While some are currently experiencing quieter skies, we know that aviation noise will return. It might take some time to reach pre-pandemic levels, but flight numbers will increase again and with that the same issues that people were facing prior to the slowdown will returnThis will be a prominent year for the environment, with the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Change Conference in November. ICCAN will be seeking to ensure that noise is considered alongside carbon reduction in any future aviation policy 

That is why we need to make sure that noise is front and centre when decisions are made about building back the aviation industry. Airspace modernisation will be back on the agenda and airports’ plans for redesigning flight paths will be resumed. Approaches to noise management can’t go back to how they were – they must be more sustainable.  

In the coming weeks we will publish our view on the future of aviation noise management with our proposals for a new and improved aviation noise landscape. Our next Corporate Strategy, covering the three years from April 2021, will reflect those views and set out more detail about ICCAN’s plans and goals. 

We will be working with Government on its two-year review of ICCAN, to ensure we have the status and resources we need to achieve our aims. We have already shared our draft goals on setting standards, health and wellbeing and preparing for the future – our next task is to set out a framework for how this can be done.

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The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation noise ceased operating on 30 September 2021.

You can read the Government’s statement on ICCAN’s closure and Head Commissioner Rob Light’s letter to the Minister to learn more.

Any further questions about ICCAN’s work or aviation noise should be directed to the Department for Transport.