The current regime for managing airport noise is based on EU legislation dating back to 2002 where the responsibility rests primarily with the airport operator. The recent entry into force of a new EU Regulation 598/2014 represents a shift in responsibility from the airport operator to a separate, independent statutory entity or competent authority to oversee the delivery of the new, more prescriptive approach to airport noise management. Following careful evaluation, it is considered that there are two central reforms to be made nationally. Firstly, the designation of a dedicated, expert-focused competent authority in Ireland is required to take responsibility for consideration of all airport noise issues in Ireland. The Irish Aviation Authority is considered to be best placed to perform this important regulatory role. The second essential reform is to clarify the collaborative working and public consultation arrangements that have to be applied in this area. It is important that there is clarity about how the legitimate concerns of residents about increasing traffic at the airport will be taken into account. This new regime impacts on a range of existing roles and responsibilities and there is a clear need for all interested parties to know precisely how the new arrangements will work.
The seven key elements of the new regulatory regime are:
1. Designation of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) as Competent Authority with the requisite powers to implement EU Regulation 598/2014 in Ireland, including in particular the power to review existing operating restrictions; a separate unit is to be established by the IAA to deal specifically with airport noise, to operate independently of its commercial activities.
2. Appropriate collaborative working arrangements between the IAA and other statutory bodies that have roles and expertise relating to noise management (notably An Bord Pleanála, Fingal County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency);
3. Robust consultation requirements with all other key stakeholders including in particular environmental authorities, local residents and business interests;
4. Clear legal obligations on the Competent Authority to adhere to the ICAO Balanced Approach;
5. Compliance with the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Habitats & Birds, and the Environmental Noise Directives.
6. Establishment of an appropriate, robust appeal mechanism in order to provide an independent, expert examination, where required, of the application by the Competent Authority of the ICAO Balanced Approach; and
7. Ongoing monitoring and enforcement activities, in order to provide, in particular, assurance of satisfactory compliance with the airport noise management regime in Ireland.
- The new regime will be based on the ICAO Balanced Approach, which requires the IAA to consider the noise mitigation contributions from four key components:
- reduction of noise at source from quieter, more modern aircraft;
- land-use planning and management measures such as zoning and insulation;
- noise abatement operational procedures such as using runways alternately or gradual take off and departure flight procedures with reduced throttle thrust; and
- operating restrictions at airports such as a cap on aircraft movements or curfews.
- A fundamental requirement of the ICAO Balanced Approach is that when determining the most appropriate combination of noise mitigation measures for a given airport, operating restrictions can only be introduced after consideration of the other three elements of the Balanced Approach.
- IAA will be required to undertake a review of the noise situation at Dublin Airport immediately following commencement of the legislation (only Dublin Airport currently and foreseeably exceeds the 50,000 aircraft movements threshold in the EU Regulation).
- IAA will be the only body empowered to make determinations on operating restrictions to apply at the airport. The IAA will not be bound by operating restrictions foreseen in the planning permission granted in 2007 for the new runway at Dublin Airport.
- IAA will be required to undertake noise reviews/assessments at least once every five years, following required consultation procedures.
- IAA will ensure that all obligations concerning environmental impact assessments are met in relation to the impacts of airport noise.
- IAA will be obliged to collaborate with relevant stakeholders including An Bord Pleanála, the Environmental Protection Agency, the relevant planning authority, the airport operator and the air navigation service provider.
- IAA will be obliged to conclude Memoranda of Understanding with these stakeholders setting down the arrangements for collaborative working between the parties concerned. The Memoranda will provide that where the IAA departs from advice given by these bodies, it will provide a reasoned response.
- IAA will be obliged to organise consultation processes, including with local residents and local businesses, in a timely, substantive, open and transparent manner. All interested parties will be given at least three months to submit comments.
- Transparency of approach and accountability for decisions to be guiding philosophies in the application of the new regime.
- Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport will be empowered to establish an appeal body comprising of up to five persons with relevant expertise, following consultation with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
- The Appeal Body’s findings and conclusions will be published and the IAA will be obliged to consider the Appeal Body’s findings and conclusions, and publish its response to it, in the process of confirming or varying its decision.
- Subject to a judicial review, the decision of the IAA will be final.
The new arrangements will be given statutory effect by way of a Statutory Instrument, which I hope to sign in the coming weeks. Subject to further advice of the Attorney General, it may be necessary to clarify some issues by way of primary legislation