Dutch court orders authorities to rein in noise pollution at Amsterdam airport

The Dutch government has systematically put the interests of the aviation sector above those of people who live near Schiphol Airport, one of Europe’s busiest aviation hubs, a Dutch court ruled Wednesday, saying that the treatment of local residents amounts to a breach of Europe’s human rights convention.

“The state has always prioritized the ‘hub function’ and the growth of Schiphol,” The Hague District Court said, as it ordered authorities to do more to rein in noise pollution.

The court ruling was the latest development in long-running efforts to rein in noise pollution and nuisance caused by the airport on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Late last year, the government shelved plans to rein in flights following protests from countries including the United States and warnings that the move could breach European law and aviation agreements.


“The judge’s decision is crystal clear: more attention must be paid to local residents and the reduction of noise pollution. That was already the government’s commitment, and we will study the verdict,” the ministry for infrastructure and water said in a written response.

The national public health institute estimates that around 259,000 people in the Netherlands experience “serious nuisance” from aircraft flying over the densely populated country.

Wednesday’s court ruling ordered the government to properly enforce existing noise pollution laws and regulations within a year and to provide “practical and effective legal protection for all people who experience serious inconvenience or sleep disturbance due to air traffic to and from Schiphol.”

KLM airplanes sit at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Hague District Court has ordered authorities to rein in noise pollution caused by the airport.  (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

The organization that brought the case, called The Right to Protection from Aircraft Nuisance, welcomed the ruling.

“The court ruled that the state did not properly weigh interests: economic interests have always been central, local residents were lowest in the pecking order. That is no longer allowed,” it said, adding that the group and its lawyers were “extremely satisfied” with the decision.

Schiphol said in a statement that it is working toward reducing noise pollution.

“Like these local residents, we want aviation to cause less nuisance. At the same time, we want the Netherlands to remain connected to the rest of the world, but quieter, cleaner and better,” the airport said in a written statement.

Among measures the airport is proposing are closing at nighttime and banning the noisiest planes.

“This will lead to a reduction in the number of people experiencing noise nuisance. In the short term, it is in any case important to have legislation that gives clarity to both local residents and the aviation sector. That is also the judge’s verdict today,” Schiphol added.

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