Noise must be managed better as aviation starts to recover

News release

The UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) has today (18 March) published a report setting out how aviation noise management can be improved as part of a sustainable recovery for the aviation industry. 

For those living under a flight path, aviation noise can be intrusive and damaging to their health and wellbeing. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in fewer planes in the sky, noise will return as people start to fly again and will continue to have an impact on people’s lives.

ICCAN was established in 2019 as the impartial advisory body on all matters relating to aviation noise and how it affects communities. It has undertaken a thorough review of the regulatory landscape and existing enforcement mechanisms relating to aviation noise, and found that the current framework in which airports, airlines and others operate is complex, hard to navigate, and it isn’t always clear where responsibility or accountability lies.

In its Report on the future of aviation noise management, ICCAN recommends that it is given statutory adviser status. This would enable it to provide standardised, national guidance to government, regulators, local authorities and the aviation industry, which they would have to consider on issues such as land-use and planning, noise metrics, future technologies and complaints. It also recommends that ICCAN becomes a statutory consultee on planning applications and airspace change proposals.

Existing regulators would retain their current responsibilities, including enforcement, however as ICCAN moves to a statutory footing, it would look to deliver advice and guidance that leads to more consistent and better noise management, with a duty on responsible bodies to consider and respond to its recommendations.

Rob Light, Head Commissioner of ICCAN, said:

“We believe now is the right time to take a fresh look at how aviation noise is managed in the UK, as the country looks to build back from the pandemic. We also recognise that for many airports and airlines, mere survival is currently their primary focus. ICCAN wants the aviation industry’s recovery to support an innovative and sustainable approach to how noise is managed for the benefit of affected communities and the wider economy.

“That is why we are saying ICCAN should be given statutory adviser status. That way, we can deliver advice and guidance that regulators in UK and devolved administrations have to take into account.

“We want noise, and the impact it has on people’s lives, to be considered a priority, alongside other environmental concerns.”

The recommendations support ICCAN’s ambitions for aviation noise exposure to be acknowledged as a public health and wellbeing issue; for decision-makers to have a better understanding of the impacts noise is having on people’s lives before taking important decisions; for people to be less affected by noise and for them to be empowered by being engaged and informed on issues related to aviation noise.

ICCAN has gained a thorough understanding of the issues with the current regulatory framework, borne out of considerable research, two years’ worth of engagement with stakeholders and first-hand experience.  It has listened to and taken account of a broad spectrum of views through its engagement, a stakeholder survey, and a series of focus groups held in the autumn.   

ICCAN has also today (18 March) published its second Corporate Strategy which sets out its goals and objectives for the next three years, as it seeks to realise these ambitions and improve the way aviation noise is managed.

Rob Light, added:

“In our first two years we have set out to be open and transparent in all we do, listening and understanding the spectrum of views from all perspectives. 

“We have sought to work in collaboration and partnership with relevant bodies and individuals to find new ways to improve aviation noise management, and we will continue to do so.

“Our plan for the coming three years is bold and ambitious, in line with our current status and what we can achieve with existing resources.”


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’s wider work includes producing guidance and advice for industry and regulators on the planning system, insultation schemes and airport operations.
  • ICCAN’s Report on the future of aviation noise management is available to view here
  • ICCAN’s second Corporate Strategy 2021-2024 is available to view here.

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.