ICCAN – When independence becomes an inconvenience?

Since November 2018, we’ve attended several meetings where the senior officials of ICCAN (Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise), have talked of how the general public whose lives are blighted by aircraft noise, now have an organisation they can address those problems to.  We have shared with you the findings of the reports and surveys undertaken, which all clearly show the depth of blight on many thousands of households.

The UK Government established this body “to help ensure that the needs of local communities are properly taken into account when considering the noise impacts of airport expansion, and to help ensure that noise impacts of airspace changes are properly considered”  These words are from Mr Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, when on the 6th September, he announced that he had concluded that many of ICCAN’s functions would be more efficiently performed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which had a wider environmental remit. This would help ensure that noise is considered alongside other policy outcomes on the basis of high-quality research and advice.

ICCAN will be wound down from now, allowing for a transitional period until most functions are covered from April 2022.  Any functions not transferred will stay under Department of Transport jurisdiction.  As part of these changes, the CAA will establish a new Environment Panel, to provide it with independent expert advice on environmental issues such as “carbon, air quality and noise”

Here is an extract from the CAA’s website on its role in UK aviation environmental issues: –

Our responsibilities – “We challenge industry to take greater action to reduce the environmental impact of its activity and have legal powers to provide information about the environmental impact of aviation where it would help passengers make more informed decisions. We monitor aviation noise levels around three UK airports designated by the Government, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and provide information and expert advice to Government and industry on noise matters.”

However this extract shows the areas OUTSIDE CAA’s responsibility: – “We do not have the power to force airlines or other parts of industry to take certain actions on air quality issues or environmental impacts. Noise is not a statutory nuisance in the UK.”

ICCAN had no statutory powers either, but crucially it had a vitally important facet to its role – it was INDEPENDENT.  The CAA makes all its income from the aviation industry, so the bigger that industry gets, the more money it makes.  INDEPENDENT is a word you will never see in its vocabulary.  It has been a regulatory body since 1972, so why has it taken 50 YEARS for it to decide that it can best provide for the public when dealing with aviation noise? When it states itself that it has no powers either to enforce or ensure changes will be made to noise nuisance? 

Has this change come about because the officers of ICCAN were ruffling too many feathers within the airlines and airports that provide the CAA with its income? Public groups around the UK, who have engaged with ICCAN, have different opinions of how beneficial they have been to their noise causes, but one thing is for sure, they will all have been listened to for the individual circumstances that surround every airport when it comes to noise pollution.  

The new Environment Panel will have expert advice, but will it have the real expert advice, of those whose daily lives are blighted by real time aircraft noise, the general public? 

Not banks of highly paid consultants who live and work in leafy quiet country idylls, and gain their expertise through endless runs of computer simulations and data exercises?

We at SLAE feel this is a backward step in the battle to deal with noise nuisance, as quality of life within the communities subjected to current aircraft noise levels, has always played second fiddle to commercial interests. This decision to allow an organisation which is totally funded by those same commercial interests, does not bode well going forwards into the rampant chase for airport expansion across the UK.

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