HL Deb 25 July 2000 vol 616 cc281-3

3.1 p.m.

Lord Lloyd-Webber asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have any plans to regulate the noise pollution caused by the recreational flying of light aircraft over the countryside, particularly in areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty)

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have recently published a consultation document on noise from civil aircraft. This fulfils a commitment given in the 1998 White Paper, New Deal for Transport, and proposes powers to assist—and, if necessary, to compel—aerodromes to operate noise amelioration measures and for local authorities to enforce these where necessary, with provision for arbitration. We have asked for comments on this consultation paper by 13th October.

Lord Lloyd-Webber

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. Does he believe that the only rule which applies to light aircraft and recreational flying; namely, that aircraft must fly 500 feet from—not above, but from—a building, is adequate? Does the Minister further believe that that rule will stand in good stead in the light of a case brought under Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights concerning individual amenity?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I was aware that a case is being taken to the court in Strasbourg on this particular issue. Given that, I expect that it is not appropriate for me to comment on the specific case. Clearly, in certain circumstances there may be a perceived infringement of the environment by individual citizens. Under normal circumstances, we would assume that the 500 feet rule would be sufficient to minimise noise heard on the ground. However, the consultation document is in part directed at investigating whether the responsibilities of aerodromes should be enhanced and 'whether the powers of the Secretary of State to regulate aerodromes as regards noise amelioration should be given further attention.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, as regards the consultation document arising from the White Paper, will the same consultation exercise apply to model aircraft? They can be just as much of a nuisance as some light aircraft.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I regret that the consultation paper has not been drafted quite as widely as my noble friend would wish. I do not believe that model aircraft are covered; nor, I regret to say, do I believe that model aircraft are subject to the 500 feet restriction. Model aircraft can cause a nuisance on occasion, but I believe that they are covered by the normal nuisance laws rather than specific aviation law.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, no mention has been made in the consultation document of the noise produced by helicopters, in particular in built-up areas. Does that mean that people will still be able to present written submissions to the consultation on this point, even though no specific proposals as regards helicopter noise appear to have been included in the document?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, no restriction has been placed on the subjects to be covered by written submissions to the consultation. I should tell the noble Baroness that the aviation rules covering helicopters are somewhat different. As regards the situation in London, about which I know the noble Baroness is concerned, a system of helicopter routes operates through London which defines the heights at which the craft can fly and the areas in which they can operate. Effectively, most single-engine helicopters must follow the line of the Thames. Although helicopter noise is not covered specifically in the consultation document, any views expressed on the issue will be most welcome.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, is the Minister aware that several low-flying aeroplanes pass over our garden in Scotland over the weekends? One of those aeroplanes makes a peculiar grinding noise when it flies up to disgorge parachutists? That is extremely distressing for people on the ground.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I was not aware that the noble Baroness had experienced aircraft passing over her garden from which parachutists jump—I was "unsighted" on that matter, as they say. Parachuting is subject to separate regulation. So far as I am aware, the same 500 feet rule applies in Scotland because the regulations cover the whole of Great Britain.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in some parts of the country, such as in the Lake District, we wish that we could hear the noise of light aircraft, which is drowned out by the screams of military planes?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I appreciate that the rural idyll may quite frequently be interrupted by military planes. However, they too are subject to severe regulation. I am sure that if my noble friend has a particular complaint to make, then my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will respond in her normal courteous way.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I speak as a recreational flyer and as vice-chairman of the Popular Flying Association, which is a regulatory body covering some 1,500 planes which fly under the permit-to-fly system. Is the noble Lord aware that we sympathise fully with my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber? We intend to bring in noise restrictions on all new aircraft and to require the existing fleet to comply where possible.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am aware of that initiative. I believe that it will be helpful and we commend the association for bringing forward those proposals.

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