In 2006, to better understand the mood among the British public regarding air travel and its impact on the environment, the Trust commissioned Ipsos MORI to undertake a survey among UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland). The research also examined the potential acceptability of an increase in tax on air travel. Based on the results of this public survey, Ipsos MORI concluded that:
The aviation and climate change debate is often heated and confrontational, highlighting the need to have a rational debate based on scientific evidence and understanding of the problem. In response, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) launched a project to create an open dialogue between all stakeholders on aviation and climate change to raise awareness of the issues. Having an independent study was seen as an important resource for all stakeholders to begin that dialogue.The AET, together with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, sponsored the inclusion of non-governmental organisations in this process, both to inform the study and to find common ground to promote change through creative leadership. The subsequent SDC report “Breaking the Holding Pattern” has created a foundation for an open dialogue on aviation policy in the future.
Together with the community-based organisation HACAN, the Trustees were pleased to sponsor research on the feasibility of introducing alternative operational practices at Heathrow with a view to minimising aircraft noise, particularly on arrival. Aircraft noise policy in the UK has aimed to minimise the number of people exposed, but this has led to significant overflying of communities under the flight path, with little or no respite except for runway alternation. The frequency of noise events experienced by these communities is masked by the average noise exposure contours produced for the airport as the methodology is relatively insensitive to changes in the number of flights. The research examined the current regime at the airport and how operations have changed over time; examples of procedures in other countries where dispersal of flight paths has led to a successful outcome, and; the potential of new operational concepts currently being evaluated including curved Continuous Descent Approaches and steeper glideslopes on arrival.
Air freight using UK airports is growing at a record rate and can give rise to a range of environmental problems, including the noise disturbance created by freight operations at night. But there are wider issues to consider, including whether it encourages unsustainable patterns of trade where “global markets” are favoured over the development of a thriving local economy; balanced against these arguments is the fact that many developing economies rely on such trade. As air freight is often overlooked by policy-makers, the Trust supported research to better understand these challenges and its implications for airport development in the UK. Undertaken by Rose Bridger, an expert on global supply chains, the research looked at the growth trends in air freight including an analysis of what is being flown in and out of UK airports, for what purpose, and its origins and destinations, and; what proportion of goods could be carried by other means (and the environmental, social and policy implications of this approach).
Decisions concerning UK airport or airfield development are made through the planning system. For most, planning controls and agreements are the only means of regulating the associated environmental impacts. In 1995, the AET supported the publication of a Handbook on Planning, the Environment and Aviation written by leading planning law specialist Alistair Bigham (ISBN 1 900211 00 9). The Handbook provided the public with a comprehensive overview of the process, the legal and planning framework, and the opportunities to get involved, and has been used as a resource by communities, local planning authorities and the industry. Many changes have taken place in the planning process since publication, while the breadth of environmental issues to be considered has increased significantly. To update the Handbook and make it more widely available, the Trust funded leading academic and expert on “appropriate assessment”, Riki Therivel, and the AEF, to work on a revised edition. The revised handbook (over 300 pages divided by planning topic) has now been published online.