The European Parliament has failed to put citizens’ health at the heart of its approach to airports and has ridden roughshod over the hundreds of thousands of EU citizens afflicted by airport noise, says Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for South East England.
The European Parliament voted yesterday on the Airport Package legislation , part of which deals with controlling airport noise.
UK residents are some of the worst affected by aviation noise, with the top 15 UK airports accounting for more than 1 million of the 2.5 million people affected across the European Union. In the South East, flights to and from Gatwick cause misery across large swathes of Surrey, Sussex and Kent. And there is growing evidence of the serious impacts of noise on physical and mental health and on children’s learning.
Keith Taylor had co-tabled a series of amendments to the draft law, in an effort to improve the quality of life of people living under flightpaths. Keith’s amendments included making noise limits match World Health Organisation guidelines, making polluters pay, reducing emissions that contribute to air pollution and climate change and an outright rejection of the Commission proposal. Unfortunately, none of these suggestions found enough support to be adopted.
On the contrary, the position adopted by the Parliament lists the economic interests of airports as a factor when decisions are made as to whether to impose noise restrictions. The European Commission will have the power to oppose operating restrictions at airports. Airports that want to introduce night-time flight bans, for example, could be challenged by the Commission.
Commenting after the vote, Keith Taylor said:
“Regrettably, the overarching economic focus of the legislation is at odds with citizens’ concerns over noise nuisance and health effects, as well as being bad for the environment. Despite some cosmetic changes, the proposed rules on airport noise are far from sufficient to protect the health of our citizens. ”
“This approach is designed to favour increasing EU airport capacity and comes at the expense of good regional practice for airport noise reduction and other environmental factors, notably carbon emissions and air pollution.”
“I’m particularly concerned about how these measures may affect people in the South East, especially given the recently-revealed ambitions of Gatwick’s owners to grow the airport to a similar size to Heathrow. ”
“To reduce noise nuisance, we need a revision of the EU’s Ambient Noise Directive. The way we measure noise has to be improved – currently noise is monitored over a 24 hour period and an average value is calculated. We need greater account of the peak volume and frequency, and a method of overall noise reduction. It’s something Greens will continue to press for.”
“The European Parliament has failed to put citizens’ health at the heart of its approach to airports and has ridden roughshod over the hundreds of thousands of people currently afflicted by aircraft noise, including in our area.”
Notes to Editors
 The Airport Package, voted on yesterday by the Parliament, covers three areas:
noise-related restrictions (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2012-0372&language=EN), ground handling services and allocation of slots.
 ref GACC Press release: Written Evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport. Summary, third bullet point.
 The UK’s Green MEPS recently made a submission to the UK Government’s consultation on Aviation Policy. Read their submission here: