24/05/2011

City Airport Hits Back Over Inquiry Delay

A proposed runway extension at George Best Belfast City Airport is once again flying into controversy.

Responding to criticism of a fresh delay in a public inquiry that is looking at the extension of the existing east Belfast runway, a spokesperson for Belfast City Airport said: "Since the airport submitted its original planning application bmibaby has announced seven new European routes from the airport.

"This additional information regarding bmibaby offering European routes without the need for a runway extension must be included in our planning application so as to give opponents time to consider the information and response accordingly," he said.

"Once again the runway extension will not mean larger aircraft using the airfield and noise levels will be within acceptable Government standards.

"Residents are further protected from noise in that the majority of flights continue to take off and land over the Lough, there are no night time flights and no cargo or wide bodied aircraft use the airfield," the spokesman insisted.
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East Belfast residents had earlier expressed their surprise at a last-minute move by George Best Belfast City Airport, which will further delay the long-awaited public inquiry on the airport's controversial proposed runway extension.

The body holding the inquiry, the Planning Appeals Commission, recently wrote to residents who objected to the plan inviting them to an initial meeting about the inquiry.

But the Commission has now announced that it will have to put the inquiry on hold because the airport said it wants to submit further relevant environmental information which the Department of the Environment must first give the public a chance to comment on.

"This latest eleventh-hour move by the airport is certainly a surprising one and will obviously delay the inquiry further," commented Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group.

"This follows a delay of several months last year when the Planning Appeals Commission said it wasn't satisfied with the environmental information submitted by the airport."

The umbrella residents' group opposes the runway extension proposal because an extended runway would enable planes to carry larger loads of passengers and fuel, leading to heavier aircraft and greater levels of noise, the protesters alleged suggesting that the proposal would also enable the airport to greatly expand its operations.

(BMcC/GK)

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