European Parliament demands night flight ban

Resolution calls for end to culture of noise , noise reduction legislation within a year

Civil aircraft could be forbidden from landing and taking off at night at European Union airports if a resolution adopted by the European Parliament today is accepted by the European Commission and Council of Ministers.

With a massive vote in favour, the Parliament called for all European airports to be closed at night to protect local residents from aircraft noise. Spanish MEP Carmen Diez de Rivera, who drafted the Parliament's opinion, told ENDS Daily that people living near airports should have "at least six hours minimum rest from aircraft noise". Night flight bans were already in effect in airports like Amsterdam and Frankfurt, she said.

A spokesperson for the Association of European Airlines said that a curfew on night-time flights would solve "one or two" problems in high-density areas, but would lead to others. "The more you limit aircraft at night, the more congestion you have during the day", said Le Thi Mai, who described the Parliament's resolution as "one-sided" and "piecemeal".

Introducing her report to the full Parliament yesterday, Ms Diez de Rivera said that "the urban culture of our society has become a culture of noise." Seven out of ten people in the EU suffer from noise levels above those recommended by the World Health Organisation, yet "noise pollution has scarcely figured among the concerns of Community environment policy over the last 25 years."

In the resolution - which is its response to a Commission green paper issued last November - the Parliament criticises the Commission for dropping previous noise abatement promises. A series of target dates for noise reduction contained in the fifth environmental action programme had sunk without trace, said Ms Diez de Rivera. Likewise, legislation promised in the Commission's 1996 work programme had been replaced by a "pathetic little green paper".

The Parliament has accepted many of the measures proposed in the green paper as "both necessary and valuable". The central plank of its criticisms is that there should also be new legislation within a year to reduce ambient noise.

However, Ms Diez de Rivera is not holding her breath. In private meetings with the Commission, she told ENDS Daily, officials had been reluctant to make any legislative promises. "For the moment [any directives are] locked in the cupboard," she added.

Follow Up:
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