The planning conditions laid down by Luton Borough Council in December 2013 sought to control aircraft noise in three ways:
- using a Quota Count system to limit the “noise budget” and “movement budget” by allowing a certain total quota of aircraft based on their noise classification – though 100 noisy flights can be replaced by 200 slightly quieter flights, for the same quota value
- defining a maximum area for the “noise contour” which averages out the net noise impact of aircraft over time at different distances from the airfield – this does not account for disturbance caused by peak noise levels for individual flights
- defining departure Noise Violation Levels for different aircraft types so that airlines are fined if they exceed these levels at the fixed noise monitoring points – though the peak noise is dependent on a number of factors including takeoff weight, airframe, engines and the effects of the weather
None of these approaches on its own is perfect, but a combination of Conditions can at least seek to minimise the impact of more flights. Unfortunately the rate at which aircraft design may make flights slightly quieter is far less than the rate at which the number of flights is set to increase: up 57% from 2011 to 2028. Worse still, the number of flights in the early morning and late evening periods is set to DOUBLE compared to 2011.
The airlines and airport operators challenged the practicality of the Planning Condition 11i relating to Noise Violation Levels originally set by Luton Borough Council, on the grounds that it would substantially increase the number of fines almost overnight, and may not incentivise use of quieter aircraft types. Details of their objections can be downloaded by clicking Airport objections to Condition 11i, and LADACAN’s response can be downloaded by clicking LADACAN proposals regarding Condition 11i variation.
Pending the decision, the airport operator has unilaterally decided to impose a daytime noise limit of 82dB(A) during the day and 80dB(A) at night. They maintain this is one of the most stringent levels in the UK, although the actual reason for this is because the airport does not have a full-length runway and so cannot accommodate the noisiest and heaviest aircraft.
Anyone who is adversely affected by aircraft noise should complain to firstname.lastname@example.org