Changing the law to allow Councils to control noise from planes, microlights and their flight paths
On the 12th July, the Swindon Borough Council Planning Committee considered a report on the activities of Redlands Airfield, near Wanborough. You will be aware that the noise from the aircraft and microlights circling near and over Dorcan, Liden, Covingham, Nythe and Wanborough is an ongoing issue for many residents.
As a result of the debate on the report, I have written to the two Swindon MP’s, Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland, in my capacity as Committee Chairman, to ask for their support to see local planning authorities having the ability to control aviation related noise from unlicensed airfields, and, ensure flight paths do not occur over residential areas. Justin Tomlinson MP has agreed to arrange a meeting with the minister and raise this matter!
This change cannot happen overnight, but it could have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for affected local residents in Swindon, and across the Country.
In reviewing the measures available to address this issue, Swindon Borough Council found it is limited in any involvement with aircraft noise when the aircraft is in the air. From a nuisance perspective this comes under s.79(1)(ga) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Noise Act 1996, (with the exception of model aircraft). This means that aircraft noise is excluded by law from the control of Local Authorities, and is instead governed by the Civil Aviation Authority.
This restriction was also confirmed by the CAA Director of Airspace Policy in September 2010 in a letter sent to them, at my request, by the Council’s Director of Law and Democratic Services.
With Aircraft noise not being a statutory nuisance, there is no way for local planning authorities to involve themselves in this matter or for planning conditions to be imposed to regulate this activity. When residents complain to their local council there is little which can be done, and complaints have to be referred to the CAA for investigating and replying. A blanket one size fits all approach to airfields and airports is clearly inappropiate because an unlicensed airfield cannot be compared to an airport like Heathrow or Bristol.
In addition, once the aircraft is airborne the local planning authority cannot control its flight path because it is also entirely controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority. The flight path taken by sky diving planes and microlights is affected by a number of factors, such as wind direction and cloud cover. However, it has recently been brought to my attention that the CAA has amended the air Navigation order (July 2010 renewed 11 July 2011 s. 681) which allows flying over settlements at 500 feet over any settled areas, and as a result appears to run counter to the intentions of the Localism agenda in letting local communities have more say over their neighbourhoods.