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However, the Right to Protection against Aircraft Nuisance interest group believes the outgoing cabinet's plans for Schiphol are insufficient.

The government has presented a renewed package of measures to significantly reduce noise pollution around Schiphol and improve the legal position of local residents. This was announced by Minister Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management, building on the main decision taken in June 2022.

In March this year, the judge ruled that more attention must be paid to the interests of local residents and that their legal position must be restored. The government endorses this statement and sees the fastest way to comply with this by continuing the mandatory European procedure that has already started.

The original package of measures, presented in September last year, aimed to reduce the number of people seriously inconvenienced by 20% during the day and 15% at night. However, the European Commission has since raised questions about the pace of implementation and the impact of the proposed measures. That is why the package is now being expanded and adapted to do justice to the judge's ruling and the findings of the discussions with the European Commission.

From November 2024, KLM will voluntarily replace noisy aircraft during the night with quieter variants. In 2025, two runways at Schiphol, which have received a lot of extra air traffic in recent years, will close between 13.00 p.m. and 15.00 p.m. to offer local residents a daily rest period. In addition, Schiphol will make the use of noisy aircraft more expensive, which should encourage airlines to use the quietest aircraft. The noisiest aircraft, such as the Boeing 747-400, will also be banned during the night (23.00 p.m. to 07.00 a.m.).

The cabinet is considering a partial night closure of Schiphol before November 2026. This could have a significant impact on the nuisance experienced by local residents, but the consequences for both the nuisance and the aviation sector must first be investigated. The results of this research are expected in the summer. If a night closure proves not to be feasible, alternative measures will be considered.

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airport Schiphol
Photo: © Pitane Blue - Schiphol Airport

The aviation sector is replacing part of its fleet with new, quieter aircraft. In addition, the maximum number of night-time flight movements will be reduced from the current 32.000 to 27.000, which is lower than the previously proposed number of 28.700.

The additional measures mean that greater steps are being taken in the fight against noise pollution than with the original September package. This leads to a higher total number of flight movements per year, between 460.000 and 470.000, compared to the 452.500 in the September package. However, according to European and international rules, reducing flight movements is the last option in tackling noise pollution.

Minister Harbers acknowledges that a higher number of flight movements is a disappointment for many local residents and that it may seem as if the cabinet is following a different course. “That is not the case,” he emphasizes. “Our goal remains the same, but the approach is adjusted. Banning large and heavy aircraft at night and introducing rest periods during the day really make a difference in the nuisance experience of local residents.”

He adds that the possible night closure could mean a significant improvement for local residents. “At the same time, in our estimation, this package is the maximum achievable within the court rulings in the Netherlands and the strict international rules for aviation.”

In the coming weeks, citizens can respond to the adjusted package. The cabinet will make a final decision on this basis. The European Commission will then issue advice on the Dutch proposals, which must then be laid down in a new Airport Traffic Decree (LVB). This also restores the legal position of local residents.

However, the interest group Right to Protection against Aircraft Nuisance believes that the outgoing cabinet's plans for Schiphol inadequate. “The minister is continuing on the path of: giving something here and taking something there,” says a spokesperson. “We won't get there that way.” Although the action group calls the reduction in night flights and the banning of the loudest aircraft at night positive, the organization points out that more flights are allowed throughout the year. The total number of flights may increase from 452.500 to 460.000 or 470.000. “Quiet aircraft do not help solve the problem. There are just too many," the spokesperson said.

The interest group speaks of a kind of “exchange trick”. “This is still not a way of working for Harbers from which you could conclude that he understands what the judge's ruling implies. That is: start again with that weighing of interests, instead of: decrease 1000 here, and then add 1500 during the day. Those are half measures. The number must be reduced overall. Not just at night, but throughout the day.”

The government is committed to achieving this as quickly as possible, although the judge has given the government a period of 12 months to implement the judgment. This period is difficult to achieve due to the necessary procedural steps for determining a new LVB. The government will therefore appeal against the verdict, not because it disagrees with the contents, but to gain more time to complete all necessary procedures. All this with the ultimate goal of reducing noise pollution around Schiphol and restoring the legal position of local residents.

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