Residents To 'Shoot Down' Airport Seat Sale

MLAs were today being told of east Belfast residents' worries over developments at Belfast's second airport.

The Stormont Assembly's Environment Committee heard their concerns about the NI Environment Minister's proposal to remove the passenger limit at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Both the umbrella residents' group, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), and the airport's executives briefed the Committee on the issue.

Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), which represents residents in east and south Belfast, and in north Down, said that any such move would have grave implications for the tens of thousands of local people affected by aircraft noise.

"We're horrified at the potential implication of allowing the airport to handle as many passengers as it wishes," said BCAW's Steering Group Chair, Dr Liz Fawcett.

"If the Minister goes ahead with this move, it will almost certainly lead to a significant expansion by stealth of the airport and the noise problem suffered by residents.

"Until now, the passenger restriction meant a mixture of small and large aircraft used the airport.

"If that cap is removed, there would be nothing to stop every plane being one of the larger and noisier types which currently fly from the airport - that would be an absolute nightmare for residents," she said.
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Last June, the Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, (pictured here) proposed the removal of a key clause in the airport's Planning Agreement with the Department of the Environment (DOE) which limits the number of seats offered for sale on outgoing flights from the airport to two million in any 12-month period.

At the same time, he revealed a key potential noise control stipulated in the Planning Agreement - an indicative noise control contour - wasn't in place as it hadn't been agreed between the airport and the DOE.

The Department recently admitted to the Environment Committee that the airport has, in fact, broken the seats for sale restriction and that the DOE is taking no moves to enforce it. The Department also admitted that it is not enforcing a further condition in the Planning Agreement designed to restrict late flights.

"The Planning Agreement is the only protection residents currently have against excessive aircraft noise," observed Dr Fawcett.

"The fact that it's being neither implemented nor enforced properly is a key reason why so many people are suffering from the effects of aircraft noise.

"If the Minister started enforcing these regulations properly rather than trying to get rid of them, he could make a significant difference to the health and quality of life of tens of thousands of local residents."


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