Community and Sustainability Summary
Protecting our local communities through sustainable growth
The Airport is vital for the health of the regional economy, providing connectivity our business community needs. Forecast growth has the potential to deliver a positive regional economic impact. We recognise that as the Airport grows there could be local impacts alongside the positive benefits. The Airport already actively manages its impact on the environment and local communities, and we are committed to growing the Airport as sustainably and responsibly as possible.
The Masterplan sets out how the Airport might grow up to 2035 and what developments may be required for this to happen. Like all airports, we produce a range of forecasts. The Masterplan is based upon the high end of the range and considers the impact of growth from 5.4 million passengers in 2017 up to 9.4 million in 2035. This helps ensure enough land is safeguarded and environmental issues are properly considered.
Noise can be a concern for communities living close to the Airport and its flightpaths. It is recognised that it can impact on people’s health and quality of life, but also that sensitivity to noise is not uniform. Some noise from the operation of the Airport is unavoidable, but we are committed to the management and mitigation of noise as the Airport grows, to minimise the impact on our neighbours.
Noise levels from aircraft are much lower today than in the past, as newer aircraft and flying procedures produce less noise. We have modelled the maximum impact the growth of the Airport up to 2035 could have on noise output, and produced noise contours from 201 to 2035 to show what the noise level could be in different areas. As the nature of our operations may change, as well as the frequency of flights, noise levels may increase for some communities. The nature of this change would be slightly different if the possible runway extension, as set out in the Development requirements section was to be developed..
Our actions to mitigate this noise impact include -
- Operating preferential flying routes and flying procedures to minimise noise output;
- Working with local planning authorities to ensure that sensitive developments are not built where there could be a significant impact;
- Exploring the viability of operating relief flightpaths to provide respite;
- Encouraging airlines to operate the newest, quietest aircraft types;
- An acoustic insulation scheme for local homes in line with legislation.
We have looked at the concentration of certain gases (NOx) and fine particulates in the air. There are 21 air quality monitoring points around the Airport site, which are used to detect if thresholds set in European Policy are exceeded.
Aircraft engines are becoming cleaner and more efficient and so the amount of NOx in the atmosphere could decrease per passenger flown as the Airport grows. Although the overall annual output could by 60% higher by 2035, our assessment indicates that it will be highly unlikely that threshold levels will be exceeded in public areas.
We will continue to comprehensively monitor air quality on the Airport site, and introduce monitoring in local communities, as well as operating a cleaner fleet of vehicles both landside and airside.
The Airport has invested significantly in recent years in drainage infrastructure and has modelled the drainage needs of future growth. This includes the development of flood water holding ponds as well as lagoons where polluted water from the airfield is held. Pollutants naturally break down before being released into local watercourses or sent to the Northumbrian Water sewer network.
As the Airport develops, larger areas of hardstanding could be needed for uses like car parking and airfield apron, creating further run-off of clean and polluted water, and therefore more infrastructure to manage this may be required. There are options to develop this, including locating ponds to the north of the airfield, blended into the surrounding countryside.
Although the airfield itself supports very little wildlife, the wider Airport site contains a range of habitats and corridors to allow for movement of animals. There are also a number of protected sites close to the Airport and flightpaths.
We will carefully consider the impact of any development on local biodiversity and seek to fully mitigate this. The adopted Masterplan includes the reservation of land for significant areas of new habitat creation around the Airport. All creation of new habitat has to be balanced with ensuring the safe operation of aircraft in relation to hazardous bird species.
Traffic and Public Transport
Growth in passenger numbers will bring with it more demand to travel to the Airport. The Airport is currently well connected by road and public transport, and most people travel by car or taxi to catch flights. A growing number make use of the Tyne and Wear Metro. However, road traffic accessing the Airport could increase, based on the current use of different transport types.
Travelling by car will always be a popular choice and we will seek to improve on-site facilities and the local road network, alongside improvements for other developments, to provide for this.
This could include:
- Enhancement of the main access roundabout;
- A second access for the long stay car parks;
- Additional on-site parking facilities;
- A link road from Great Park to the A696.
The amount of extra traffic could be less if more passengers travel to the Airport by public transport. This will also help to support local services used by neighbouring communities. We will work with other transport providers and implement our own interventions to encourage sustainable transport use. We have set the following targets for sustainable transport usage: