FAQ on why the ‘Luton Airport Condition 10 variation’ issue is important:
Why are you crying ‘foul’?
Luton Airport got permission to expand provided they stuck to the noise control rules. They have now broken one of those rules for 2 years running, are going to break another this summer, yet rather than fixing the problem they’re saying they won’t abide by the planning rules and want them replaced by something much laxer.
The rule they’ve broken is called Planning Condition 10 which limits the amount of noise they’re allowed to make.
They’ve exceeded the limit for 2 years by flying too many noisy planes at night, and now want to fly too many noisy planes during the day as well.
People on the ground being kept awake by noisy flights will justifiably be angry that the airport is putting profits before people’s right to sleep in peace.
What’s the ‘Condition 10 Variation’ application?
Planning Condition 10 was laid down by Luton Borough Council in 2013 to protect residents from too much noise from airport capacity expansion by setting limits on the ‘noise footprint’ of the airport, both by day and at night.
A ‘noise footprint’ or contour is an area inside which the average noise is higher than a given amount. The planning rules define an area in sq km, an average noise value in average decibels (dB Leq), and the number of hours during which the average is taken.
So for example the ’57db Leq16hr noise contour limit of 23.4 sq km’ means the area around the airport in which average noise during a 16-hour day is higher than 57dB, must be no larger than 23.4 sq km.
Similarly the ’48 dB(A) Leq8hr noise contour limit of 44.1 sq km’ means that the area around the airport in which average noise during an 8-hour night is higher than 48dB, must be no larger than 44.1 sq km.
How does setting a noise contour limit control noise?
A noise contour limits the number of flights, the noisiness of the aircraft, the duration of the noise events, or a combination of these things.
As the aircraft move further from the runway they tend to get quieter anyway due to increased altitude and reduced throttle settings, so noise contours typically control noise where it is worst – closest in.
What is the effect on residents if a noise contour limit is exceeded?
If a noise contour limit is exceeded, it means that too many planes are being flown, the planes are individually too noisy, or the noise events last for too long – or a combination of these factors.
For residents this basically means: there will be more noise than permitted, and in the case of Luton this particularly applies at night, when people hate aircraft noise the most.
What is the airport proposing to do?
In terms of their operation, they want to be able to carry on breaking the rules that were set in 2013, and to get away with doing so without being fined
To comply with the limits, the airport would need to scale back by about 35-50 flights per day, to stop introducing noisier aircraft types like the Boeing 777s being flown now by El Al, and to focus on attracting quieter types only.
But instead of respecting the planning conditions and complying with the limits, the airport is proposing that the contour areas should be increased by around 20% for 5 years to allow it to make more noise than the planning rules permit, without being fined.
What do the campaign groups want?
We want the airport to respect the planning conditions which were laid down in 2013 as part of a balanced package of growth and mitigation.
The 2013 planning permission was for a 15-year expansion period, so there is no need for the airport to rush to achieve 18 million passengers by 2020: it can scale the growth to achieve that by 2028 by which time the quieter-engined aircraft will have helped to offset the increased number of flights and keep the noise averages and hence the noise contours within limits.
The excuse that this is all due to air-traffic delays shifting flights from the day-time to the night-time period simply does not wash: if that was the case then the airport would not be about to breach its day-time contour as well. Its Annual Monitoring Reports make it clear that the contour increase is due to the growth in numbers of flights.
They have known for some years that the rate of growth was too rapid to stay within the limits given the current fleet, and should have regulated the operation accordingly.