Aviation slowdown presents opportunity to rethink how noise is managed


The UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) is calling on the government to make managing noise a key priority when aviation levels start to recover following the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, and Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, ICCAN Head Commissioner Rob Light argues that the unprecedented situation the industry is currently experiencing should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way.

Rob Light, said: “The decisions taken when rebuilding cannot be at any cost and this applies to the detrimental effects of noise on the public, as much as it does to climate change concerns.”

ICCAN, a non-statutory advisory body that provides independent, impartial advice to government, regulators and the aviation industry, believes that there must be a clear, consistent and transparent approach to noise mitigation and, as a result, the current ways of working must change.

ICCAN is currently collecting and analysing data on aircraft movements, noise monitoring and attitudes around airports – as this is a unique opportunity to use data to understand the impact as such historic low levels of activity begin to increase.

Some communities living close to airports might be currently experiencing a period of respite due to quieter skies, but one of the expected consequences when aviation activity levels increase is that noise will be more noticeable. Given the particular health impacts of noise on those communities, ICCAN believes it is vital that noise management and mitigation is properly considered as activity levels begin to pick up.

In a letter to Ministers, Rob Light writes:

“When the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) published our first Corporate Strategy in the spring of 2019, we could scarcely have imagined the events to come and the impact Covid-19 would have on the aviation industry.

“I feel a great deal of empathy for the many thousands of people employed in the aviation industry and the uncertainty that lies ahead.

“We see current events – and I write this with utmost sensitivity – as an opportunity for a re-think about the way aviation noise is considered when both strategic and operational decisions are taken about the future of aviation.

“In the understandable desire to rebuild aviation swiftly and efficiently, not being seen to prioritise aviation noise management is likely to generate a significant negative reaction from local communities.

“The public will need to trust that the rebuilding of the aviation industry – at whatever pace – is done in a sustainable way.”

In the coming weeks, ICCAN will set out its plan for the second year of its two-year work programme, which includes publishing an opinion on how aviation noise is monitored, measured and managed.

ICCAN’s wider work includes producing guidance and advice for industry and regulators on the planning system, insultation schemes and airport operations.

Notes to editors:

The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was established by the Government in January 2019 to act as the credible and impartial voice on all matters relating to civil aviation noise and how it affects communities.

ICCAN is currently researching how the current lower levels of aviation activity may be affecting people’s attitudes to aircraft noise.

Two publications planned for April 2020 – an opinion on noise metrics and a toolkit on consulting on airspace change – were postponed by ICCAN in light of the current Covid-19 situation.

For further information, contact: Rupert Basham, ICCAN Media & Engagement Lead, rupert.basham@iccan.gov.uk, 07971 110350

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.