02/02/2018

Govt Watchdog Hits Out At Stormont Dept Over Late-Night Flights

A government watchdog has hit out at a Stormont department over its handling of late flights out of Belfast City Airport.

The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) found "maladministration" by the former Environment Department and called for its replacement to issue an apology and payment to nearby residents.

More than 3,000 late night flights took place over a seven-year period from the airport.

The department "had no operational definition of the phrase for the purposes of monitoring compliance with the Agreement", according to NIPSO.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson said: "The department had no operational definition of the phrase for the purposes of monitoring compliance with the agreement.

"In response to the ombudsman's inquiries, the department stated that the 3,000-plus late flights which took place over a seven-year period were all 'exceptional'."
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Mrs Anderson has called on the Department for Infrastructure to issue an apology within one month to Belfast City Airport Watch Limited and to make a "consolatory payment" of £1,000.

Green Party Leader Steven Agnew said: "This finding is vindication for the residents of Belfast and Holywood who have been plagued with late night nuisance noises associated with the airport over a period of years.

"The Department has been remiss in its duty to protect residents from noise pollution, having apparently failed to collect systemic data on flight activity until it came under pressure from BCAWL.

"In 2016 alone, almost 500 exceptional flights took place after 9.30pm, which averages out at more than one a day. This is a ludicrous state of affairs which has resulted in a lot of annoyance and distress for those living under the flight path.

"I hope that from now on the Department will remember that its duty is to the residents and will focus on minimising the impact of the airport on their lives."

(CD/LM)

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