Proposed airport noise restrictions puts $33.5 billion worth of new housing at risk: Urban Taskforce

Proposed airport noise restrictions puts $33.5 billion worth of new housing at risk: Urban Taskforce
Proposed airport noise restrictions puts $33.5 billion worth of new housing at risk: Urban Taskforce

A proposal by the federal government to vastly expand the areas around major airports that could face residential housing construction restrictions due to aircraft noise will put $33.5 billion of new housing projects at risk, according to property development lobby group Urban Taskforce Australia (UTA).

The $33.5 billion figure (which comprises 134,000 new dwellings) applies across Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Canberra and was calculated by property research and advisory firm MacroPlanDimasi.

MacroPlanDimasi also estimates that values of houses in newly designated high-noise zones could fall by 5%.

The new proposals are outlined in a draft document, Principles for a National Airports Safeguarding Framework, released by the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group on March 21. The proposal is not accompanied by any shift in established flight paths.

The proposals are aimed at minimising residential development near airports and “improving safety outcomes by ensuring aviation requirements are recognised in land use planning decisions”.

It calls for improvements made to the current Australian noise exposure forecast (ANEF) system, which has guided development around airports for the past 30 years.

The report notes that while the populations with the highest aircraft noise exposure often live within the 20 ANEF contour (an area defined as having high noise pollution and where there are currently planning restrictions), “the majority of noise complaints that are received are now coming from residents living outside the 20 ANEF contour”.

“ANEF zones do not capture all noise-affected areas, and experience has shown that the ANEF contours are not necessarily an indicator of the full spread of noise complaints.

“Just as aircraft noise does not suddenly stop at the 20 ANEF level, there is no hard and fast line where aircraft noise suddenly changes from being acceptable to being unacceptable… Aircraft noise impacts follow a continuum and clearly, noise impacts close to, but outside an identified threshold will be almost indistinguishable to the impacts on the ‘the other side of the line’,” the draft document says.

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It calls for a “complementary suite of noise measures in conjunction with the ANEF system”, including four new noise controls and provides maps showing a vastly expanded areas around 10 major airports affected by aircraft noise that could potentially face planning restrictions.

The UTA says research carried out on its behalf by acoustic engineers Wilkinson Murray shows that 1,000 square kilometres of planned development around for housing in the proposal.

“This will impact on many proposed developments as well as the value of existing properties,” says the UTA. The UTA also expressed concern at the three week exhibition period explaining the proposals, which has now passed, calling it a “far too short a period to genuinely engage in public consultation”.

It also notes reports prepared by MacroPlanDimasi (on the property and financial implications of the draft framework), CBRE (on the planning and property implications of the draft framework), Wilkinson Murray (on acoustic issues around the draft framework) and Gadens lawyers (on legal implications of the draft framework all expressed considerable concern about the draft framework.

The proposals have also been criticised by Sam Haddad, director-general of the NSW Department of Planning, who in a letter to the UTA said he doubted there was “sufficient evidence that the existing ANEF system needed to be changed”.

Haddad says the NSW government will not support the draft measures and will not be agreeing to any changes in planning policy.

Consultations on the draft framework have now closed but it has yet to be endorsed by federal, state and territory governments.

It is next expected to be considered by the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) and subject to SCOTI endorsement, each jurisdiction would then consider implementation through its own mechanisms and may undertake further consultation processes.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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