I have done my best far to influence amendments brought forward by my party and I have taken an active part in every stage of the debate on the bill so far. I also attended the Transport Oireachtas Committee stage of this bill, even though I am not a member of the committee as I am my party’s Spokesperson on Housing, Planning & Local Government.
I have and continue to be in regular contact with residents groups and the FORUM. Fianna Fáil expressed considerable concerns over the appointment of Fingal County Council as the competent authority under the Aircraft Noise Regulation Bill, given that Dublin Airport is the council’s largest rate payer. In fact, between late 2016 and late 2018, alone Fianna Fáil raised the appointment of an independent noise regulator 25 times with the government. Unfortunately, Minister Ross and the government did not pay any heed, and approached the appointment of a competent authority with such delays and incompetence to the point where opposing the overall Noise Regulation Bill would have endangered the Irish economy and connectivity with the rest of the world.
This was particularly exacerbated by the threat of Brexit, which already presents a considerable challenge to Ireland’s economy. I’m am acutely mindful of the 20,000 direct jobs and over 114,000 indirect jobs that are supported by the airport and my responsibility to ensure that theses jobs are protected and indeed that we grow the number of jobs where possible. This must be done however in a balanced way, lessening any negative impact on neighbouring communities.
As such, Fianna Fáil proposed significant amendments to the bill, which would strengthen the independent functioning of the noise regulator. Fianna Fáil proposed that the Director of the new Noise Regulator be placed on the same professional level as the chief executive of the Local Authority, as we wished to strengthen the independence of the new Noise Regulator. Government threatened to withdraw the bill in its entirety if this amendment was pushed. I received a copy of this in writing and I advised the Dáil of same. I also advised the FORUM of this in advance of our Transport Spokesperson Robert Troy withdrawing this amendment. Unfortunately, legal advice also informed us that this amendment would have undermined the Local Government Act 2001, which states that chief executives shall be overall responsible for the execution and management of the functions of local authorities, as set out by the Act.
We have since then continued to try to strengthen the independence of the proposed noise regulator, which would be Fingal County Council.
At committee stage, I on behalf of Fianna Fáil successfully introduced an amendment to expand the existent noise insulation scheme to include homes affected by any possible future flight path and to place the scheme under the remit of the noise regulator, taking decision making away from DAA. This is a very significant move.
Fianna Fáil also succeeded in appointing the competent authority as an oversight and appeals body for the implementation of this noise scheme, which is a drastic improvement upon the existent scheme. This will ensure that a body independent of the airport will be able to assess the suitability of the noise insulation scheme, consider whether it is fit for purpose and provide an appeals mechanism to residents who are dissatisfied with the scheme.(see official note from Department of Transport on effect of this amendment at end of this publivation).
Fianna Fáil also helped ensure that the bill contains an explicit commitment to evaluate residents’ health and wellbeing as part of the evaluation of noise mitigation measures and operating restrictions.
Furthermore we have ensured that all parties have recourse to An Bord Pleanála, who are now specifically mentioned in this Bill. Any resident or group can appeal directly to the Board whether or not they have made an objection or observation to the local authority.
Fianna Fáil also successfully pushed for the role of An Bord Pleanála to be strengthened and ensure that the noise regulator cannot unilaterally decide that a planning application does not have a significant noise implication. This is crucially important in terms of providing oversight to the noise regulator.
Many residents, myself included, want to ensure that the most up to date noise guidelines are included in this legislation. We successfully pushed for the bill to be amended in order to explicitly reference the European Environmental Noise Guidelines, which will ensure that the independent noise regulator is required to take residents’ health concerns into consideration with regard to the implications of noise. This is very significant indeed and will set a very high bar for any future applications made.
I AND MY PARTY REMAIN ABSOLUTELY OPPOSED TO UNRESTRICTED NIGHT FLIGHTS.
I have been very clear on this on numerous occasions and I will continue to ensure that here is a balanced approach with the development of the airport, which is important for our local and national economy. This legislation is about setting up the competent authority, which is required due to EU Regulation 598. This bill when enacted will not set aside existing restrictions. These will have to be assessed by the future Authority and more than likely in the end of the day by An Bord Pleanála.
Whilst this bill is not perfect and not exactly what I would have wanted, I and my colleagues have already made major changes to it, which will greatly improve this legislation and indeed the operation of the competent authority itself. If this bill were to fall we would be left with the current situation with the noise insulation scheme, the same voluntary purchase scheme and no authority to deal with noise and night flights from the airport. There currently are no restrictions and this is NOT sustainable.
The bill has not concluded yet and is back from in the Dáil at Report and Final stages. I would expect it to conclude in the coming weeks. I will continue to work constructively to secure further changes and ensure residents’ concerns are to the forefront and that whilst doing so we also protect and grow the jobs in the airport and maintain and enhance connectivity for our country.
OFFICIAL NOTE FROM DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT - PRODUCED AT MY REQUEST BASED ON MY AMENDMENT TO BILL
Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill 2018
Noise Insulation Scheme
Following on from the commitment made by Minister Ross at Report Stage to work with Deputies to address their concerns in relation to noise insulation schemes, the Department has reviewed the existing Sections 20 and 31 in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. The following amendment is proposed as an alternative to Section 20 and Section 31 as they currently appear in the Bill as passed by the Dáil. This is considered as the most effective approach for ensuring that the noise insulation schemes come under the immediate remit of the Noise Regulator and become subject to all of its independent regulatory powers, underpinned by EU Regulation 598.
In page 47, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
Noise Insulation Scheme
20. (1) In this section--
“relevant day” means the day on which this section comes into operation;
“relevant noise contours” means--
(a) subject to paragraph (b), on and after the relevant day, an area of noise
exposure to which the scheme applied immediately before such day, and
(b) an area of noise exposure determined by the competent authority on or
after the relevant day, including such an area which alters or replaces an
area referred to in paragraph (a);
“scheme” means a noise insulation scheme put in place by the daa before the
relevant day and in force immediately before such day.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), on and after the relevant day, a scheme shall be deemed to be a noise mitigation measure introduced by the competent authority and the provisions of this Act and the Act of 2000 shall, with all necessary modifications, apply to the scheme accordingly.
(3) On and after the relevant day, the competent authority shall ensure that the scheme applies to all homes located within a relevant noise contours.
Implications of Proposed Amendments – What Does it Mean in Practice?
Independent Regulatory Oversight – Taking the revised Section 20 together with the existing Section 29, all existing noise insulation schemes, whether brought about through planning conditions or at the initiative of daa, will come under the remit of the noise regulator. The noise regulator will have the power to determine the relevant noise contourswithin which the noise insulation schemes apply, including expansion of the noise contoursor a review of eligibility, as it deems necessary. All powers of the regulator including monitoring and enforcement - through its powers of direction - will apply to these schemes. In addition to this, the voluntary purchase scheme will also automatically come under the remit of the Noise Regulator on enactment of the Bill, by virtue of this Section. This mitigates the need for the additional amendment put forward in relation to the voluntary purchase scheme.
Review of Insulation Schemes - Under Section 21, any person may request the Noise Regulator to review the effectiveness of noise mitigation measures (including the insulation schemes) at any time. Furthermore, the Noise Regulator must review the effectiveness of noise mitigation measures (including the existing noise insulation schemes) annually, at a minimum.
Consultation and Reporting - Any proposed changes to the insulation schemes will be fully consulted upon by virtue of the 14 week consultation period built in to the regulatory process provided for in the Bill (Section 9 subsection (13)). Moreover, in line with Section 19 of the Bill, the airport authority will be required to report annually on compliance with anynoise mitigation measures, including noise insulation schemes.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
11 April 2019