Strict application of noise limits in sight

Report from Bruxelles Air Libre Brussel (BALB) to the UECNA meeting  on 1 April 2017

Noise limits for aircraft flying over the Brussels Region were established in 1999 by the Brussels Region in order to protect its inhabitants. The noise limits distinguish between day and night: stricter limits at night. And between the distance to the airport: the closer to the airport, the higher the limits are (both for the day and for the night). The limits are at best close to the WHO 1999 noise limits [1], but normally a little weaker. They were to be applied as of January 1, 2000.

An aircraft louder than the noise limits has to pay a fine. In order to allow airlines to adapt to the limits, tolerances were established for the day (+ 9 dB) and for the night (+ 6dB). These tolerances were supposed to be revoked as of January 1, 2017.

Opposition by Flanders, airport and airlines: ‘Thousands of jobs at risk’ claims without any concrete evidence. Airlines went to court against the deletion of the tolerances, but lost before the highest Belgian court (‘Conseil d’Etat’). A second court case confirmed the deletion of the tolerances.

Flanders also considered that the noise limits should have been notified to the EU Commission under Directive 2015/1535. [2] Allegedly the EU Commission confirmed that the technical requirements for the noise meters to measure any breach of the Brussels Region’s noise limits would have had to be notified. However the Brussels Minister for the Environment concluded that no notification was necessary since neither the Brussels Region’s 1999 regulation on the noise limits nor the Brussels Region’s 2002 regulation on the noise meters were technical requirements in the sense of the Directive.

The Flanders Region invoked a ‘conflict of interest’, which delayed the deletion of the tolerances by 60 days. And so did the Flemish speaking Community shortly before the end of the 60 days: again a 60 days delay. Now the deletion of the tolerances is expected to be applied around May 1, 2017.


EU aspects

Belgium / Flanders did not provide a noise map to the EU Commission as required by EU Directive 2002/49 on environmental noise. [3]

Costs of aircraft noise in Brussels according to a study commissioned by the Brussels Minister for the Environment: EUR 63 mio / year, calculated on 2011 noise data. Represents 24% of the damage from all noise (including road noise, etc.). Paris: Only 7% of the total noise damage is due to aircraft noise.


NGOs united around two major requests

Press conference of 14 NGOs from Brussels and the surrounding Brabant (Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant), on March 10, 2017: request to the Federal Mobility Minister to

  • eliminate all night flights between 22:00 and 7:00;
  • ensure an upper limit of 220,000 flight movements per year.

Court case of the Brussels Region, joined by several Brussels administrative Communities and BALB on environmental cessation: judgement expected mid to end of April. Maximum: ‘Stop the infringements to the Brusseln noise limits.’


[1]     World Health Organisation (1999) Guidelines for Community Noise.

[2]     Directive (EU) 2015/1535 laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical regulations and of rules on Information Society services. OJEU L 241, 17.9.2015, p. 1.

[3]     Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise – Declaration by the Commission in the Conciliation Committee on the Directive relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise. OJEU L 189, 18.7.2002, p. 12.