Belfast City Airport Watch say Belfast residents are furious about the token airport ‘action plan’
Residents affected by aircraft noise from George Best Belfast City Airport say they’re furious that the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment has approved an airport ‘noise action plan’ which doesn’t meet its own guidance. The five-year plan fails to outline how the airport is going to reduce noise for those residents worst affected, despite the fact that the Department says airport noise action plans should include such proposals. The Department’s decision comes as it’s emerged that the number of people seriously affected by aircraft noise (above 57 dB) has more than doubled within the space of a year – from 3,728 in 2012 to 8,247 last year. The figures, compiled by the airport’s own consultants, also show that more than 20,000 people were subjected to aircraft noise at a level which many observers consider to be significant (54dB). The airport’s draft noise action plan, published last summer, was sharply criticised by Belfast City Council which called on the airport to promise action to reduce noise for those residents who were most seriously affected. However, the airport has not heeded its call and the final version of the ‘action plan’ contains no such undertaking.
Residents’ fury at token airport ‘action plan’
Controversial noise plan approved as noise impact doubles
14th March 2014 (Belfast City Airport Watch)
Residents affected by aircraft noise from George Best Belfast City Airport say they’re furious that the Department of the Environment has approved an airport ‘noise action plan’ which doesn’t meet its own guidance.
The five-year plan fails to outline how the airport is going to reduce noise for those residents worst affected by the issue, despite the fact that the Department says airport noise action plans should include such proposals.
The Department’s decision comes as it’s emerged that the number of people seriously affected by aircraft noise has more than doubled within the space of a year – from 3,728 in 2012 to 8,247 last year. The figures, compiled by the airport’s own consultants, also show that more than 20,000 people were subjected to aircraft noise at a level which many observers consider to be significant.
Responding to the news, Dr Liz Fawcett, of the umbrella residents’ group, Belfast City Airport Watch, said:
“The ‘noise action plan’ process was instigated by the European Union to help reduce undue levels of aircraft noise.
“The Department’s decision to approve a so-called action plan which doesn’t meet its own guidance really beggars belief.
“We’ve written to the Department to urge it to review this illogical and unjust decision.”
The airport’s draft noise action plan, published last summer, was sharply criticised by Belfast City Council which called on the airport to promise action to reduce noise for those residents who were most seriously affected.
However, the airport has not heeded its call and the final version of the ‘action plan’ contains no such undertaking.
Dr Fawcett says that the whole process is now flawed and must be reviewed:
“We have a fundamental problem with the fact that airports are allowed to draw up their own noise action plans in the first place.
“However, it’s quite unacceptable for the Department to issue guidance on drawing up these plans and then to turn a blind eye when the airport fails to comply with it.”
- Belfast City AirportWatch comprises 18 residents’ and community groups across affected areas within east and south Belfast, and north Down, one trade union branch and one schools’ project. It also has 785 individual associate members. For more information on the campaign, visit: www.belfastcityairportwatch.co.uk
- George Best Belfast City Airport’s Noise Action Plan 2013 – 2018 is available at: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/final_george_best_belfast_city_airport_noise_action_plan_round_2.pdf
- The Department’s guidance on the production of an airport noise action plan is available here: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/airports_noise_mapping_and_action_planning_technical_guidance_2013.pdf Section 6 provides guidance on measures to help reduce noise for those residents who are most seriously affected.
- The 2012 and 2013 noise impact figures are published in an annual noise impact report produced by Bickerdike Allen Partners for George Best Belfast City Airport. It shows that 3,728 people were affected by noise at or above 57 dB LAeq 16h in 2012, and 8,247 at or above the same level in 2013. 57 dB LAeq 16h is the threshold at which the UK government officially recognises that ‘significant community annoyance’ is likely to commence. However, a more recent study commissioned by the government found that many people were very annoyed by aircraft noise at or above 50 dB LAeq 16h. See http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/environmentalissues/Anase/ The Bickerdike Allen report, referred to above, found that a total of 20, 471 were affected by noise at or above 54 dB LAeq 16h in 2013, compared to 12,600 in 2012.
- The decision by Belfast City Council, referred to in this release, can be viewed here (item 20a): http://minutes.belfastcity.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=277&MID=11363#AI22611 The minutes are at
The BBC ran the story below on 13th March.
Belfast City Airport Watch say it is not correct. They comment that:
It is not correct that Belfast City Council has backed Belfast City Airport’s application. The BBC story is inaccurate. A representative from Belfast City Airport Watch was interviewed on Radio Ulster clarifying what the Council actually said – the story seems to have emanated from a reporter who didn’t check their facts properly – unusually for the BBC.
The Council has not taken any position on the application itself. Instead, it has said it supports the airport’s ‘aspirations for growth’ but has serious concerns re noise issues, and wants to see robust noise controls.
13 March 2014 (BBC)
George Best Belfast City Airport: Council backs passenger rise bid
By Julian O’Neill
BBC News, NI Business Correspondent
[Belfast City Airport Watch say this story is inaccurate]
Belfast councillors have backed a plan by the city’s George Best Airport to grow passenger numbers, believing it will boost the local economy.
The council was responding to the airport’s attempts to scrap its “seats for sale” restriction.
That limits it to selling two million departing seats a year.
But in a letter to the DoE, the council said the airport’s pledges on noise control require closer scrutiny when a public inquiry is held on the issue.
The airport’s bid to alter its planning agreement is controversial as residents’ groups oppose the idea, arguing it will mean many more flights.
Belfast council’s position, which is to be ratified in two weeks’ time, follows support for the airport’s plan from North Down council.
But it too has raised issues over noise.
The airport has been attempting to lift the seats cap since 2004.
There have been three judicial reviews, and in 2011, then minister Alex Attwood referred the matter to a public inquiry.
Since then, an environmental statement by the airport has been the subject of a public consultation exercise that ended last week.
George Best Belfast City Airport said lifting the seats restriction would enable it to attract new routes, like Frankfurt, and ‘claw back’ business from Dublin airport.
It also argued the move would increase its financial viability with almost 1,000 people working at the airport.
It proposed replacing the seats limit with noise control measures.
An airport spokesman said: “We take the issue of noise very seriously and comply fully and with all Department of the Environment (DoE) and European legislation in respect of this.”
The airport’s planning agreement limits flights in-and-out to 48,000 a year – last year there were around 37,000 – and the airport has stated future growth will be managed within that restriction.
A final decision on the seats issue rests with Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, following consideration at the public inquiry.
No date has yet been fixed for the inquiry, but it is likely to be held later this year.
Some earlier news about Belfast City Airport:
Residents near Belfast City Airport alarmed at research linking strokes and heart disease to aircraft noise
Date added: October 9, 2013
Residents affected by aircraft noise in Belfast and north Down, in Northern Ireland, have expressed concern at the findings of a new study – published in the BMJ. The study found the risk of being admitted to hospital because of a stroke or heart disease was linked to the level of aircraft noise to which an individual was exposed; the higher the level of noise, the more likely it was that they would be admitted to hospital with one of those conditions. Likewise with the risk of dying from heart disease. Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group, said the findings raise serious questions about the damage which aircraft noise may be inflicting on the health of people living under the flight paths. In Belfast the City Airport’s own figures show that more than 8,500 local people are impacted by aircraft noise at a level which the UK government considers likely to cause significant annoyance. These people may also be suffering effects on their health, which is unfair on them. Liz said: “It’s also unfair on the taxpayer footing the bill for hospital admissions which, in some cases, may be avoidable.” Click here to view full story…
Row as Belfast City Airport rejects EU directive to produce Noise Management Area
September 10, 2013 .Belfast City Council is on a collision course with George Best City Airport after the airport declined to take measures recommended to protect residents affected worst by aircraft noise. Councillors have accused the airport of trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities after it refused to set up a Noise Management Area (NMA) in the residential area most affected by noise. Councillors say the airport must be held to their responsibilities. An EU Noise Directive recommended that a NMA where control measures would be in play should be set up for the 1% of residents most affected by aircraft. However, the airport has said this was merely a recommendation and it was only obliged to declare a NMA if the noise was louder. However, the airport’s own draft noise action plan, published in June, found that over 8,000 people living near the airport suffer from a level of aircraft noise deemed by the UK Government to cause “significant community annoyance”. .Click here to view full story…
Belfast City Airport: Reality dawns earlier now for unhappy airport neighbours
June 27, 2013 Over 8,000 people in North Down, south and east Belfast suffer from levels of aircraft noise that are considered to cause “significant community annoyance” – over 57 decibels – according to a new report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Belfast City Airport has published a draft action plan which includes a proposal to begin operating a noise compensation scheme for local residents affected by loud noise – but only those affected by noise levels of over 63 decibels. Residents say aircraft noise has become worse since Aer Lingus launched 3 routes from the City Airport at the end of March. There is a 6.30am take off to Faro, 7 days a week and on weekdays, there are then 5 BA departures beginning at 6.35am, and all before 7am. The planes have been getting bigger over the last ten years. A resident asked: “Surely they should stick the big jets at the International Airport and keep the regional flights at the GBCA.” Belfast City Airport Watch does not believe that an airport situated in a densely populated urban area is the right location for international flights due to the noise and health impact on local people. Click here to view full story…
Belfast City Airport’s own report finds noise badly annoys 8,500 locals
21.6.2013 More than 8,000 people living near George Best Belfast City Airport suffer from a level of aircraft noise deemed by the UK Government to cause “significant community annoyance”, a new report has revealed.A draft noise action plan published by the airport shows that 8,616 people live within a zone surrounding the east Belfast airport which gets an average of 57 decibels of aircraft noise. The average reading was taken over a 16-hour period on a summer’s day.
Westminster committee hears from Belfast residents on aircraft noise from Belfast City Airport
October 27, 2012 A committee of MPs at Westminster has been hearing from Belfast residents affected by aircraft noise linked to George Best Belfast City Airport. The umbrella residents group, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), was invited to give evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster on 24th October as part of its inquiry into an air transport strategy for Northern Ireland. All three MPs whose constituencies are affected by the noise issue – Naomi Long MP, Alasdair McDonnell MP and Lady Sylvia Hermon MP – sit on the Committee and were present at the meeting. Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the BCAW Steering Group, said the group was very pleased with the reception it got from the MPs, and their interest in the issues. BCAW want the regulation of aircraft noise at the non-designated airports to be strengthened. The current proposals in the draft Aviation Policy Framework consultation do not go far enough. The consultation ends on 31st October. There is information on how to respond, and on the noise section in particular. Click here to view full story…
Cautious welcome from Belfast City residents for airport noise consultation
March 28, 2012 Local residents have given a cautious welcome to news that the Environment Minister, will hold an inquiry and consultation aimed at addressing the issue of aircraft noise linked to George Best Belfast City Airport. Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) want protection for local residents and their quality of life. They say: “A far higher number of residents living near City Airport have to suffer unacceptable levels of noise than is the case at major UK airports such as Stansted or Gatwick.” They also face more noise this year from several new international routes operating out of City which are likely to push up noise levels even further. BCAW wants the consultation to result in a tougher airport Planning Agreement which is properly enforced. Many thousands of Belfast people suffer levels of noise above those recommended by the WHO. Click here to view full story…
Decision to lift cap on City Airport passengers quashed
A decision to lift the cap on passenger numbers at George Best Belfast City Airport has been quashed at the High Court.
Limits set at two million seats for sale in any year are to be reinstated.
It follows successful legal challenges against the move, announced by former Environment Minister Edwin Poots.
High Court orders confirming the outcome were made after the department conceded both cases ahead of a scheduled full hearing.
The rival Belfast International Airport (BIA) brought judicial review proceedings against removing the controversial restriction.
It was claimed that the decision announced last December by the then minister was unlawful and failed to take into consideration environmental implications.
A further challenge centred on claims that the seats restriction was lifted without checking whether there was an effective noise control system and an improved noise management system in place at the City Airport.
A residents’ group, Belfast City Airport Watch Ltd, also issued similar proceedings against the department.
Court orders now made in the cases have quashed the decision to lift the cap.
As a result the revised planning agreement which removed the restriction has been declared of no force or effect.
A spokesperson for the airport said that they would “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.”
A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport welcomed the High Court decision.
“We feel fully vindicated regarding our concerns about the lawfulness of the previous announcement to remove the restriction,” the spokesperson said.
“We also welcome the fact that legal costs will be met by the department. We now look forward to the early enforcement of this restriction by the Planning Service.”
The chair of Belfast City Airport Watch’s steering group, Dr Liz Fawcett also welcomed the court’s decision.
“We are delighted that our case has been vindicated and that the department will now have to reinstate the seats for sale restriction,” she said.
“The restriction is an important one for residents because it limits the number of larger, noisier planes which the airport can operate.”
Legal costs in both cases are to be paid by the department as part of the settlement.
Belfast residents celebrate legal victory over City Airport planning agreement
26th October 2011 Local residents affected by aircraft noise are celebrating a landmark legal victory in their campaign for tougher noise controls at the airport. A High Court judge quashed a decision by the previous Environment Minister in Dec 2010 to remove a clause in the airport’s planning agreement which effectively limited the number of passengers who could fly from the airport. Now the Department will have to reinstate the seats for sale limit – 2 million per year Click here to view full story…
Belfast City residents welcome concession of airport court case but are cautious about inquiry move
30th September 2011 Residents have reacted cautiously to news that the Environment Minister is considering modifying the noise regulations governing the operation of the airport. He has announced an inquiry which will investigate how the current planning agreement between the Department and the airport can be altered. The Department is dropping its defence in a legal battle with Belfast City Airport Watch over the planning agreement. Over 11,000 people are affected by aircraft noise. Click here to view full story…
and more at