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The CAA has several roles relating to aviation noise.  Our work on aviation noise can be divided into three main areas:  

  • A Regulatory Function: deciding whether the design of controlled airspace can be changed, in accordance with our statutory functions, which include, an obligation to take into account the Air Navigation Guidance 2017 (as set out in CAP1616). In doing so, the CAA must consider guidance from the Secretary of State on environmental objectives, which includes guidance on aircraft noise impacts; 
  • A Commercial Function: monitoring noise around UK airports, publishing information regarding noise levels and likely impacts, and advising on noise management and mitigation. Work is undertaken for a range of customers including the UK Government, public authorities; the aviation industry; and local communities; and 
  • Advisory Functions: collaborating on and reviewing research into the effects of noise and how they can be reduced and offering advice on these effects and other relevant noise related topics. This work is usually undertaken for or on behalf of the UK Government, and can include providing advice, guidance and best practice, in the UK and internationally.  

In August 2021, the UK Government decided to wind down the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (“ICCAN”). The Secretary of State for Transport wrote to the CAA that he intended to appoint the CAA to carry out  technical, research and policy advisory functions, where agreed and appropriate, which had been previously undertaken by ICCAN. These are referred to below as the New CAA Noise Advisory Functions. The New CAA Noise Advisory Functions are intended to complement and expand on the CAA’s existing Advisory Functions. The New CAA Noise Advisory Functions are to be funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), on an annual basis. The funding arrangement and deliverables for 22/23 have been confirmed.

To support delivery of these tasks, as well as our wider environmental sustainability ambitions, the CAA created a new Environmental Sustainability Panel in April 2022. The Panel is a group of experts who will contribute to the CAA’s new noise functions, by advising us on sustainability issues in general. It will act as an expert 'critical friend' and provide technical advice to ensure sustainability issues, including aviation noise, are properly considered when the CAA is working to improve aviation’s sustainability and environmental performance. To ensure transparency, minutes from meetings of the Environmental Sustainability Panel, and annual reports, will be published on the CAA website.

The key objectives in the exercise of the New CAA Noise Advisory Functions are:  

  • to support departments across the UK Government and devolved administrations to take informed decisions on aviation noise policy; 
  • to increase the level of understanding about aviation noise management as well as the confidence and transparency in how aviation noise is treated in the UK; and 
  • to promote best practice in the aviation sector through the production of guidance on managing noise impacts, including balancing the needs of relevant parties and engaging with stakeholders 

A summary of the New CAA Noise Advisory Functions is provided below:

Provision of advice to Government to support policy making 

  • The CAA will continue to provide objective, technical and expert advice on aviation noise, to inform the UK Government’s decision and policy making. To ensure we are able to deliver these functions, the CAA will expand its existing resource and expertise. The CAA will agree with DfT on a rolling basis whether further resource will be required to meet this role.  
  • Where necessary, we will draw on intelligence from other relevant government Departments and Agencies and stakeholders. The work will be independently and objectively delivered by the CAA.  
  • The CAA Environmental Sustainability Panel will, as appropriate, contribute to the production of this advice by providing critical technical feedback and/or through the provision of sustainability related intelligence and technical expertise.  

Provision of transparent and reliable information and research on noise in the UK 

  • In addition to the information and research published by CAA on behalf of DfT, the New CAA Noise Advisory Functions will include collating, preparing and/or commissioning information regarding national and local aviation noise levels, measurement methodologies and noise mitigation techniques. This information will be made publicly available and periodically updated in a transparent manner. The purpose of this action will be to highlight standards across the sector and allow for informed and effective engagement between industry and stakeholders.  
  • The CAA will, when appropriate, undertake or commission further research where significant and relevant gaps in evidence exist. The CAA will undertake to seek agreement with DfT, other relevant government departments and agencies and stakeholders including impacted communities (where appropriate) prior to determining who is best placed to lead the commissioning. There will be cases where other agencies are better placed to commission or undertake research and we will work with Government and others where appropriate to consider the best way to deliver it. 
  • The CAA Environmental Sustainability Panel will, as appropriate, contribute to the production of this information and research by providing critical technical feedback and/or through the provision of sustainability related intelligence and technical expertise.  

Publication of ‘Best Practice’ guidance on aviation noise 

  • The CAA will continue to publish, promote and maintain best practice guidance related to aviation noise to enable airports and airlines to make improvements. The New CAA Noise Advisory Functions will expand on this existing remit. 
  • The CAA will monitor up take of aspects of best practice guidance. In doing this, the CAA will seek to ensure that those causes of aviation noise which have the greatest impact on stakeholders are prioritised. In doing so, the CAA will ensure that its resources are proportionately allocated. 
  • The CAA will, where it is appropriate to do so, engage stakeholders, including community groups and industry, in the development of best practice guidance. 

Interplay with existing noise-related statutory functions

Airspace change process

Changes to the design of UK airspace are proposed by an airspace change sponsor, usually an airport or a provider of air navigation services (including air traffic control). The CAA, as the UK’s independent aviation regulator, has responsibility for deciding whether to approve the proposed changes and requires change sponsors to follow its airspace change process (CAP 1616).

Before deciding whether to approve an airspace change, the CAA considers a range of factors, including the environmental impacts of a proposal including aircraft noise. Effective stakeholder engagement is a vital component of the airspace change process.

The CAA’s airspace change process must operate within the government’s policy framework. The CAA works closely with government to support policy making on aviation noise, including how noise impacts are considered, managed or mitigated and engaged on as part of the airspace change process.

Close Airspace change process

Airspace modernisation strategy

The CAA published its Airspace Modernisation Strategy (CAP 1711) in 2018. The strategy sets out the ends, ways and means of modernising airspace by updating airspace designs, operational procedures and enabling technologies. 

The Department for Transport and the CAA, as co-sponsors for airspace modernisation, have jointly developed a shared objective for modernising airspace: to deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys and more capacity for the benefit of those who use and are affected by UK airspace. A key parameter to that objective is to progressively reduce the noise of individual flights, through quieter operating procedures and, in situations where planning decisions have enabled growth which may adversely affect noise, require that noise impacts are considered through the airspace design process and clearly communicated. 

The CAA has recently undertaken a consultation on a refreshed Airspace Modernisation Strategy (CAP 2298a and CAP 2298b). 

The CAA’s statutory function is to prepare and maintain a coordinated strategy and plan for the use of UK airspace. The Airspace Modernisation Strategy and the commissioned Masterplan is how we do this, operating within the legal and policy framework set by the UK Government. The CAA provides technical advice to assist the government with policy making to support the CAA’s work on the Airspace Modernisation Strategy. 

The outputs of the CAA’s noise reporting and research function may similarly be used to support work on aviation noise performance improvements under the Airspace Modernisation Strategy. 

Close Airspace modernisation strategy

Delivery of environment related roles

A number of parts of the CAA are engaged in work related to the impacts of aviation noise. These include, Airspace Regulation, Space, Design and Certification, Airspace Modernisation and our Environmental Research and Consultation Department (ERCD). Each department is accountable to its own stakeholders and owns the responsibility for addressing any actual or perceived risks of conflicts of interest.  The New CAA Noise Advisory Functions are an expansion of existing advice, reporting and policy functions, and will sit within the CAA’s Strategy and Policy Department (“CSP”).  To deliver the New CAA Noise Advisory Functions, CSP may commission analysis from ERCD and others and prior to doing so, will require ERCD or any other provider to identify and mitigate any conflicts of interest.  

Close Delivery of environment related roles

2022/23 programme of work

The CAA has established a new Environmental Sustainability team to drive the CAA’s work to improve aviation’s environmental performance and take a holistic view of environmental sustainability issues.  This includes those functions of the former Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) that the CAA has agreed to take on from 1 April 2022.   The team will lead on delivering the CAA’s sustainability strategy and engaging consumers, industry, communities and the wider public.  It will also provide advice to Government and collate information to report on aviation’s sustainability performance.   An indicative work plan for the Sustainability Team is set out below. More detailed information on sustainability deliverables will be published alongside the CAA’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy in Q1 2022/23.​

In 2022/23, the Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Engagement Team intends to deliver: 

  • Publish CAA Environmental Sustainability Strategy (Q1 2022/23) 
  • Establish CAA Environmental Sustainability Panel (Q1 2022/23) 
  • Provide secretariat support to the Environmental Sustainability Panel work programme (ongoing) 
  • Undertake external stakeholder engagement on sustainability issues, including noise (ongoing) 
  • Commission and manage external contract for review of engagement practices (Q2 and Q3 2022/23) 
  • Review ICCAN consultation toolkit and incorporate relevant elements into CAP1616 update (Delivered by Airspace Regulation Team Q2-Q4 2022/23) 
  • Launch consultation on environmental information provision (Q3 2022/23) 
  • Produce Climate Change Adaptation Report (Q4 2022/23) 

In 2022/23, the Environmental Sustainability Advice, Performance and Reporting Team intends to deliver: 

  • Procurement and commissioning of Aviation Noise Attitudes Survey (Q1 and Q2 2022/23) 
  • Ongoing work on Aviation Noise Attitude Survey (ERCD may provide noise data, ongoing) 
  • Analysis on carbon and noise trade-offs (technical analysis provided by ERCD Q1 and Q2 2022/23) 
  • Produce annual report on aviation noise and performance (Q2 and Q3 2022/23) 
  • Produce report on environmental performance of UK aviation sector (Q4 2022/23) 
  • Noise Metrics Comparison Study (technical analysis provided by ERCD Q4 2022/23)