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Materials development

During Stage 2, change sponsors will have developed and assessed a series of flight path options which now need to be presented to the public, providing them with an opportunity to give intelligent consideration to the proposals and their impacts, including noise implications, and provide feedback.

The detailed analysis about how these options have been developed, and assessed against the Design Principles, will be evidenced in the Options Appraisal Assessment, which change sponsors are required to upload on the CAA portal as supporting materials, as well as alongside the consultation materials.

It is important that change sponsors have a clear narrative in the consultation materials which explains the proposals, what the noise impacts will be and how and why the options have been developed.

It is also imperative that all materials are clear, short and simple to understand, so that they are accessible to people with no prior aviation knowledge and background, allowing all consultees to understand the concept of airspace change as well as the benefits and disbenefits of the proposals under consideration.  This will ensure that everyone is able to provide an informed response to the consultation.  

As with the Approach workstream, there is no prescribed way for producing the consultation materials, but for consultees to understand the proposals and noise impacts they must be designed with the audience in mind.

Recognising that change sponsors will have identified key audiences and how best to engage them as part of the Audience workstream, this workstream requires the design of any materials to reflect the insight gained from this analysis.

Noise and the impact it has on people’s lives is often one of the main concerns informing people’s responses to airspace change or airports’ consultations. However, as an issue it can be very technical and complex for people unfamiliar with the subject to navigate. It is important that more is done to communicate information to affected communities in a more open way.

When planning how to present noise as part of a consultation, it is vital to consider what information communities want to know and which aspects of aviation noise have the greatest impact on annoyance.

For your proposals, these might include:

  • What is the frequency of flights going overhead?
  • What time will the flights be?
  • What size are the planes and how noisy will the flights be?
  • Is there a difference in noise generated between summer / winter, day / night, weekend / weekday?
  • Are there predictable respite periods?

Providing any or all this information might help to set out the context of the proposals and give a more realistic picture of the noise impacts people will experience. Any additional, and more importantly, relatable information you can provide might help someone better understand the proposals. 

Change sponsors should follow the CAA’s wider guidance on noise and noise assessments as published in CAP1616a.

The use of metrics and noise contour maps

ICCAN has published recommendations for airports and the wider aviation industry about how noise should best be measured, monitored and reported. This is available to read here.

We support the continued use of the L A e q-based metrics currently in use in the UK but believe that the best approach is to use different metrics for different purposes, in order to cater for the different needs of your audience.

In your materials, the inclusion of noise metrics need to strike the balance between being relevant, accurate and meaningful while also easily communicated to those without an aviation background. People do not experience noise as an average, and therefore reliance entirely on L A e q does nothing to aid public understanding, let alone trust, in the data being published. It is our opinion that the L A e q type metrics can be strengthened by coupling them with a Single Event Metric. Our initial review suggests that the Nx (Number Above) is the most appropriate complementary metric.

For consultation, Nx can be used in a predictive sense by assessing the number of proposed flights along a flight path and predicting the proportion of different plane models to show the number of noise events over a given threshold. Such predictions can help explain the potential noise impacts. The use of example flight scenarios to go alongside this metric could also further clarify this point and help your audience to see the frequency of significant noise events over their communities in a more transparent way. Forewarning people about the level of noise impacts prepares them for the change and will enable them to provide a more considered response to consultations.

While seemingly a simple way to illustrate noise, contour maps can actually give a misleading picture of how aviation noise exposure occurs. They appear to indicate a significant step change in noise exposure (and therefore inferred annoyance) between different sides of the contour, so accompanying text must make it clear that this is not the case. No assumptions should be made that your audience will instantly see the map and understand what is being proposed. Any maps developed as part of the consultation materials must be produced to a high resolution so that details can be better extracted. One frequent complaint about existing noise contour maps is that they are low-quality and therefore hard to interpret.

Consideration should be given as to how information about the proposals is packaged and presented to the public. This is an area where pre-consultation engagement can add a lot of value for the consultor. That preparation work will have given some ideas about what the local concerns are, what people from different geographic areas need in terms of information, and how to express this in a language that they can best understand. The documents should provide people with enough information so that they can understand the issues and the potential impact of the proposals but should not be so lengthy and packed with details to be potentially off-putting.

The consultation document together with associated supporting documents must always act as the principal data source for everything presented during the consultation – taking this approach reduces the risk of additional information being presented to different audiences. 

There are however other ways of presenting information in a more accessible and easy to understand format, such as taking the source material in the consultation document and presenting it through:

  • Information booklets, appendices for technical information and data
  • Support the consultee by including instructions that clearly explain what is being asked of them.
  • Diagrams and info graphics
  • Making an Easy Read version
  • Undertake a Plain English review
  • Have a Glossary of terms
  • Supporting information

We shall consider each of these potential methods below:

Information booklets, appendices for technical information and data

Multiple information booklets can help aid with the understanding of specific proposals. Such booklets can enable information to be tailored for people living in specific areas, or even from different demographic groups or specialisms, on a range of topics, and could include:

  • Geographic booklets for specific areas allowing you to present the flight paths impacting certain villages / towns / communities, which could make it easier for residents of that area to understand the proposals
  • An overview of all the proposed flightpaths including what the current operational measures are and how this will differ under each proposal
  • A booklet that specifically explains noise, the types of routes and size of aircraft that might fly them, and how noise might impact different areas
  • A background booklet which contains information about the development of the proposals through Stages 1 and 2, the design principles and a list of the stakeholders that have been involved in the process so far
  • Supporting information that enables you to provide the more complex and detailed facts which may be necessary to support feedback from the more technical audiences

The scale of the change and the size of the consultation will help determine which of these booklets you might want to produce. The more booklets produced, the more resource and budget will be required, so it is worth assessing how effective you think they will be as part of your consultation approach. 

Support the consultee by including instructions that clearly explain what is being asked of them.

It is important that the consultation documents are simple and easy to follow, so people know exactly what they need to do and where they can find the information to enable them to understand what is proposed and provide their feedback. Within the context of airspace change, consultees need to understand the proposals and their impacts and provide a response via the questionnaire. Providing simple explanatory guidance in the documents can support this, so change sponsors might wish to consider:

  • Clear signposts in the documentation, including to different sections, so that people understand what information is relevant to them and how they can access it
  • Adding introductions to each section of the document so the reader is clear what each section contains and the purpose of the chapter
  • Use of embedded animations and/or video briefings to explain complex concepts and issues. ICCAN’s advice on video production and how it could be beneficial for air space change consultation, can be found in the Approach section.

Airspace change can be a complex subject for someone to apprehend, so it is important that the consultation documents are intuitive and easy to navigate. Densely written and overly technical documents could be likely to frustrate respondents and risk the consultation being challenged for failing to meet the requirements of Gunning 2.

Diagrams and info graphics

Illustrative ways of explaining complex material can often help people to better understand the proposals and help overcome language barriers. The use of diagrams or maps to present flight paths, noise impacts or other more technical information can help present the content in a clear and simple way.

When approaching visual elements for your materials, change sponsors may wish to consider the following:

  • Use a diagram to tell a story. Pages full of text can be off putting so create a diagram or image which helps to explain your message. This could be the process so far, how you present the old vs new flight paths, how noise is measured and explained, or what the next steps will be
  • Avoid using unclear, confusing or overly technical maps to show your proposals – simplicity is key. Imagine someone looking at the map for the first time, would it be easy for them to understand what is being explained? Busy maps can often be confusing and distract from the message. Consider stripping them back and only show what is necessary
  • Explain technical terms with a diagram or infographic. If you have something that needs detailed explanation, try to develop an illustrative way of describing it which helps to clarify it for the audience. This can be an effective method of translating complex information.

Making an Easy read version

Easy read is a methodology for creating accessible information to support understanding and the involvement of people with learning difficulties in a public consultation. It usually involves using pictures to support the information about the proposals and their impacts. Easy read may also be useful for trying to communicate your proposals to a wider audience, as it removes much of the technical details and just provides the essential information that someone needs to know.

Specialist third-parties are often used to develop easy read versions of consultation materials, so this does require some expenditure and can be time-consuming to undertake, however an investment in Easy read versions of consultation documents can create more accessible materials which can be beneficial as part of engaging more widely and provide support to change sponsors in delivering the seldom heard engagement strategy.

More information is available on the Government website.

Undertake a Plain English review

Using the right language and tone is instrumental in people understanding what is being proposed. Try to use clear, straight forward language, and avoid using acronyms and technical jargon as far as possible. If your materials are difficult to understand and inaccessible then there is a risk that people won’t read them, which could result in frustration and criticism about the documents and, ultimately, with the consultation.

When approaching language, you may wish to consider the following:

  • Put yourselves in the shoes of the audience – ask if you were affected by the proposals, how would you like to be told about it? By considering the world of the respondent, it might help you explain the proposals and impacts more clearly for people. The pre-consultation engagement work should help in being able to do this with your specific audiences in mind.
  • Listen to the tone of voice being used in the document – this could have an impact on how the proposals are received. Could the tone of voice be considered too slick, too corporate or too technical? These criticisms have been raised with ICCAN by communities in our survey on consultation best practice.
  • Find a good balance – if your materials are too technical then they may be off-putting, or too basic and they could come across as patronising. Use simple language, be clear about what you’re proposing, avoid lengthy descriptions and keep your language consistent. It is also important to trust in the intelligence of your everyday audience. If you can, try to use a third-party who resembles the audience profile to read through the materials and see whether they are simple and clear to understand.

Have a glossary of terms

It is hard to completely avoid using technical terms, especially in a subject as complex as airspace change so it may be helpful to have a glossary of terms. This a simple way for people without an aviation background to understand some of the more complex terminology by providing clear definitions that the consultee can understand and reference easily.

Providing a glossary should not justify the overuse of technical terms and acronyms within the materials. Where something can be easily explained in Plain English you should do so, and refrain from using acronyms as they are less accessible and can prove to be confusing for the reader. Acronyms should be used be used sparingly and appropriately.

Supporting information

As set out in the Approach workstream, there are many different channels that can be adopted to help support the consultation, both on and offline. Tools such as drop-in sessions, public meetings and events can help this process by having staff available to clarify and talk through the materials, answer questions and clarify any issues which people might have with the consultation materials. This will be a particularly useful process for change sponsors as any new questions / answers can be added to the consultation’s list of FAQs.

ICCAN has outlined more detail about how to prepare FAQs in the Length section. Online tools such as websites and social media can host videos and webinars that further provide instruction or explanation about how the audience can better understand the materials.

Before consultees can provide their response, change sponsors must be clear about what it is they want people to do and how they should proceed. When developing this narrative, the following points should be considered:

What are people being asked to do?

Consultations on airspace change are being held so sponsors can gather information and understand views about the impact of their proposals.

This means that people should be able to read the documentation, understand what is being proposed and how it will impact them, and then provide an informed response. Being clear and up front about the reason for the consultation and what you want people to do will generate a better, more meaningful response. Explain the journey you want them to take by providing simple instructions on what respondents need to read and how they provide feedback.

Be clear about who the consultor is

It is imperative that change sponsors are clear that they are the consultor and it is they who are proposing the new flight paths. Explaining the CAA’s role is also important, especially as they will have oversight of the consultation and will ultimately greenlight the plans, but it must be clear that the consulted upon routes are being proposed by the change sponsors. Likewise, any changes that could be made as a result of feedback received, will be implemented by the airspace change sponsors, not the CAA. 

Be clear about how people give their feedback

Consultees need to understand that they must respond via the CAA’s online portal, so clear instructions should be provided on how to use this online channel. As previously mentioned, signposting between documents and the portal is allowed, so for example, if someone is reading about flight path X and it impacts them, then they should respond to question Y. Simple directions can have a strong impact.

How do they find out the conclusion of the consultation, who makes the decision and when this will happen

Explain to consultees what the next steps will be, such as how their feedback will be used and analysed, and what you, as change sponsors, will do with the findings from the consultation. In Step 3d, change sponsors will produce a document that will review and summarise all the key issues  from the consultation,  categorising them against the requirements of Table C2 in CAP1616.

As part of the Step 4a submission, a consultation response document further analysing the feedback from the consultation will be submitted to the CAA where it will be publicly accessible on the CAA portal. It is important that consultees understand that CAP1616 is a transparent process and that their feedback may help shape the final proposal submitted to the CAA for approval.