25/02/2009

Airport Extension 'Inquiry Decision' Welcomed

The Stormont Assembly has voted in favour of a full public inquiry into the controversal bid to extend the runway at Belfast's George Best City Airport.

Although a victory for those campaigning against the proposed runway extension, the decision won't actualy make that much difference.

It will not put any form of veto on the Environment Minister who will still have to decide if one is indeed required.

Thanks to a DUP amendment on the original motion - originally tabled by the Alliance Party and the Green Party - calling for the Assembly to endorse a public inquiry into the runway extension, Sammy Wilson remains free to make his own mind up.

However, while awaiting that outcome, there has been both a broad welcome for the Assembly motion's passage and further political support for the inquiry.

Last night, North Down Alliance MLA, Dr Stephen Farry MLA (pictured) said: "The Assembly has sent a clear message to the Environment Minister Sammy Wilson that there should be a public inquiry into the proposed runway extension at Belfast City Airport.

"The debate was specifically not about advocacy of any pre-ordained outcome but rather ensuring that an open and transparent process is put in place which can robustly test all the economic and environmental arguments, claims and counter-claims.
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"I have confidence that such a public inquiry would produce an outcome that was in the best interests of the Northern Ireland economy and wider society.

"Alliance accepted the DUP amendment which preserved the core sentiment and direction of the motion in order to establish a strong and united consensus in the Assembly in giving a view to the Minister."

Also supporting the inquiry aim was Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey who also called for a full public inquiry into the proposed runway extension at Belfast City Airport.

"There are serious environmental, economic and social concerns around any planned extension to Belfast City Airport. These concerns have been highlighted by local residents over a long period of time and also highlighted on the floor of the Assembly during today's debate," he said.

"I have met with Belfast City Airport Watch Group, along with my party colleague and the party's representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile.

"We share many of their concerns and I believe any planned extension must be subject to a rigorous public inquiry process."

On the other side of the political spectrum, NI Health Minister, UUP MLA Michael McGimpsey has said an inquiry is the "only way to deal with safety and health concerns over the runway extension".

See: Local MP 'Joins' Runway Debate

(BMcC/JM)

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