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NEWS Last modified on September 10, 2014

UK airports growing while reducing carbon and managing noise, report finds

UK airports are growing while reducing carbon and managing noise, according to a report launched in Parliament today by the Airport Operators Association (AOA).

The trade association's report 'Sustainable Airports: Improving the environmental impact of the UK’s global gateways' - responds to political and public calls to demonstrate a growing airport sector can be delivered sustainably.

On carbon emissions, the report shows carbon footprint of the UK’s 18 largest airports by passenger numbers, which represent 95% of traffic, and reduced by almost 3% in just two years, despite traveller numbers increasing by more than 5% and air traffic by almost 2% during the same period.

On noise near airports, the report concludes despite historically reducing noise contours around airports, and gateways managing noise perception by significantly investing in enhanced local community engagement - the population size within noise contours is beyond the control of airports due to a lack of consistency between national aviation policy and planning policy.

The report claims while in the last three years, over 5,700 homes have been given planning permission, or have started or completed construction in areas around UK gateways where the government expects some people will experience annoyance at aircraft noise.

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The AOA calls on government policy support on carbon, which it says it needs to work with the aviation sector to incentivise the take-up of sustainable aviation fuels, including establishing a clear policy framework to stimulate production and investment in this new technology.

The AOA says politicians from all parties should also support a global Emissions Trading Scheme; and on noise, it needs to give local authorities national policy guidance, to help them build homes in areas that are compatible with airports and other infrastructure, but which do not cut across national aviation policy.

It also adds that policy asks airports to limit and reduce the number of people inside noise contours, but it should not enable developers to introduce thousands of new households into those contours.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the AOA, comments: “This report is an important contribution to the debate around whether our sector can successfully expand without increasing its carbon and noise impacts.

“It demonstrates that our country’s airports, which are so crucial to the economic wellbeing of the UK, can grow sustainably, even more so if given proper policy support.

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“The report shows that airports are keeping to their side of the bargain, investing and innovating to reduce their carbon footprints, and working through industry coalitions to reduce noise."

Caplan continues: " We now need to see a partnership approach with government to take sustainable airport development to the next level.

“We urge ministers to step up to the plate and do their bit to deliver supportive policy on issues such as supporting sustainable aviation fuels, promoting a global carbon emissions trading scheme, and providing consistent national and local planning policy which helps airports limit and reduce the number of families living inside noise contours, thereby reducing the number of people experiencing noise annoyance from aviation.”

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