30/09/2011

Airport Volume 'Up In The Air'

The 'volume' of traffic in and out of NI's only city-based airport is back in focus today as the Stormont Environment Minister begins a public process that will eventually modify the existing Planning Agreement between the Department of Environment and George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA).

SDLP Minister, Alex Attwood said, that at present there is a Planning Agreement that controls certain aspects of the airport's operations including the number of aircraft movements, hours of operation and the types of aircraft that can use the airport.

"My objective in seeking to modify this Planning Agreement is to achieve a fair, effective and enforceable noise management system.

"What I want to see is a system that provides appropriate protection for the local community and surrounding environment," he said.

"The system will provide operational flexibility and commercial certainty for the airport with the environment protected and the quality of life respected.

"This process will be transparent and inclusive. I am proposing that the process will be subject to Public Examination with a decision taken on the modifications by early Summer 2012.

"The overall approach in seeking this change to the Planning Agreement is about balancing public and private interests," he added, noting: "The ultimate aim is to achieve the right balance between the social and economic benefits of airport expansion with the need to protect the quality of life for local residents and the environment."

He said that the process would include a public consultation on proposals for a noise management system, to be brought forward by GBBCA.

This will include a Public Examination to independently consider all of the issues and to report back to the Minister.

Following consideration of the report on the Public Examination, the Minister will decide what modifications should be included in the Planning Agreement.

A spokesperson for the airport said: "We will continue to work closely with the Department to agree a noise contour and to engage in a process to modify our existing planning agreement.

"Belfast City Airport is one of the most tightly constrained airports in the UK and an important contributor to the local economy. It is important that this issue is resolved in a timely manner."

(BMcC/GK)

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