27th February 2004

Campaigners unite to call for ban on night flights

SSE is calling on all its e-supporters and members to make contact with regional MEPs to press for them to sign up to the call for a ban on night flights. If you’d like to add your voice to the calls, see a list of MEPs and how to contact them at: http://www.europarl.org.uk/uk_meps/txukmeps/txmain.html

Campaigners from Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) joined MPs, MEPs and members of other airport communities from the South East and the Midlands at a ‘sleep in’ on Friday (27 February) in London to launch a Europe-wide campaign to ban night flights at all European Airports.

The call for the ban on flights between the hours of 11pm and 7am takes the form of a Written Declaration and already has considerable support within the European Parliament and follows the European noise conference of campaign organisations attended by SSE in November.

The Declaration calls on the European Parliament to introduce legislation for a ban on night flights at all airports in the European Union between 11.00pm and 7.00am. If 318 MEPs from across Europe sign it, it will be debated in the European Parliament before the European Elections in June. SSE is calling on local people to press their MEPs to show their support for such a ban and to take action. The campaign group will also be making its own representations to the region’s European politicians.

Night noise from aircraft has been proved to be responsible for sleep disturbance, increased heart rates and day-after affects such as depressed moods [see Note 1]. The World Health Organisation recommends [see Note 2] that night noise inside a bedroom should not exceed 45 dBA, or even lower where background noise levels are low. Even as much as 15 miles away, an aircraft coming in to land can cause noise levels higher than this inside a poorly insulated bedroom.

Night flights are regarded as one of the biggest problems facing communities across Europe and very few major airports have no night flights at all. Direct comparisons are difficult because countries define ‘night’ in different ways. However, Stansted has an average of 30 flights per night, compared with 16 at Heathrow, 40 at Gatwick and 60 at East Midlands Airport. At Stansted there are many more flights in the summer than in winter.

The launch took place against the backdrop of a ‘sleep in’ photocall outside a Department for Transport conference on night flights in Victoria whose delegates included SSE Chairman Norman Mead.

Commenting on the launch, Norman Mead said: “A ban on night flights is already being demanded by many people in the Stansted area because of the extreme quietness of this largely rural area in the night hours. It will become increasingly important whether or not a second runway is ever built since the existing runway could handle nearly twice the existing volume of passenger traffic. There is bound to be pressure for part of this increased traffic to consist of night flights.”

“If a second runway should ever come into operation,” he continued, “then the disturbance from night flights would potentially be even more serious. The 2003 Government consultation made it clear that expansion would mean there would be a large increase in cargo flights at an expanded Stansted and there would be pressure from operators for many of these to be at night.”

“In addition, the economic viability of an expanded Stansted already in doubt would be weakened even further without the long haul flights that BAA claim it would attract. Because of the need to fit with the timetable requirements of airports in different time zones (many of which themselves have restrictions or total bans on night flights), there would be additional pressure for schedules which involve more and more night flights at Stansted,” he concluded.


(1) Reported in ‘Public Health Impacts of Large Airports’ Health Council of the Netherlands (1999)

(2) From ‘Guidelines for Community Noise’ published by the World Health Organisation (2000)

A copy of the wording of the Written Declaration appears below.

26 January 2004


for entry in the register pursuant to Rule 51 of the Rules of Procedure

by Hiltrud Breyer, Alexander de Roo, Marie Anne Isler Béguin, Paul Lannoye and Caroline Lucas

on noise from airports

Date of expiry: 26 April 2004

The European Parliament,

– having regard to Rule 51 of its Rules of Procedure,

A. considering that noise is one of the most serious threats to health, especially for children;

B. considering that almost one third of the population of the European Union is already affected by noise;

C. considering that more than ten million people suffer in Europe from aircraft noise and that even if a decrease in noise is possible through technical improvements, the enormous increase in the number of flights will counteract the effects of these;

D. considering that noise from landings and take-offs is particularly harmful during the night;

E. considering that a good night’s sleep is a human right, as declared by the European Court of Human Rights;

F. considering that there is a risk of competition between airports to the prejudice of residents in the affected areas if decisions to ban night flights are taken at national or regional level;

The European Parliament asks:

1. that the utmost priority be given to the health of European citizens;

2. the European Commission to propose legislation banning night flights between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am at all airports in the European Union.


Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits