Harmonised EU airport noise limits proposed

European parliament rapporteur says common limits "urgent" to reduce health damage

The European Parliament's rapporteur on a newly proposed framework directive on noise has challenged the European Commission by proposing harmonised limits on the noise generated by aircraft around airports from 2005. Kicking off the assembly's first reading of the proposals this week, Dutch Green Alexander de Roo said his proposals would amount to the EU's first "daughter directive" on noise. His ideas have been already condemned by airport operators as "senseless".

The Commission's draft directive, released in July (ENDS Daily 27 July), does not include proposed EU noise limits of any kind, aiming instead to establish common noise measuring, monitoring and mapping procedures. Mr de Roo said these plans were good but did not go far enough.

"The Commission intends to wait several years before coming up with EU-wide noise limits. For noise from aircraft near airports we need an EU daughter directive immediately," he said. Several aircraft operators had shifted business to airports with more lax restrictions recently, he said, showing how difficult it was for authorities to enforce noise standards.

Under Mr de Roo's proposals, aircraft landing or taking off at all EU airports would be subject to maximum noise limits of 65 decibels (dB) during daytime and 55dB at night by the end of 2005. These are already "achieved or achievable" for most major EU airports, he said, and on average would still result in sleep disturbance for 12% of local populations.

The limits should then be tightened in 2012 to 56dB and 45dB and finally in 2020 to 49dB and 40dB respectively, he says. New airports would have to meet the intermediate targets by the end of 2005. By 2020 sleep disturbance would be reduced to just 4% of the local population. Mr de Roo admitted his proposals represented a "serious task" for airports but said quieter aircraft and steeper approach trajectories could achieve the tougher limits.

Initial reaction from airport operators has been critical. Yevgeny Pogorelov, spokesperson for Airports Council International Europe, said his organisation was still analysing the plans but was likely to oppose them. "When you have such different residential and geographical situations [from airport to airport], how can anyone impose a uniform limit?" he told ENDS Daily today.

"The principle of subsidiarity should be applied here more than anywhere else because it's locals who are most interested in airport developments," he continued. "It shouldn't be a matter for legislation at the EU level."

Follow Up:
European Parliament environment committee, tel: +32 2 284 2111, and Mr De Roo's proposals (also available in the other ten official EU languages). ACI-Europe, tel: +32 2 552 0982.

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