Residents say Belfast City Airport’s plans to treble flights will cause intolerable and unacceptable noise level
Residents affected by aircraft noise from George Best Belfast City Airport say the noise will be “intolerable” and unacceptable. Under the plans, which are to be considered at a public inquiry starting on 18th May, lasting for 4 days, the airport’s own figures show that the annual number of flights could rise from the current level of 14,000 per year to 43,000 if the proposals are implemented. Up to 18,000 residents could be affected at a noise level which the UK government says causes significant annoyance (57 dB Leq) with the projected impact higher than the noise footprint of Gatwick and Stansted, where around 3,700 and 1,900 people respectively are affected at the same level. Local group, Belfast City Airport Watch, commissioned a survey that showed how much plane noise is already disrupting their lives. This showed of those living near the flight path 38% said plane noise was “very high” at their home. 20% said planes disrupted their sleep “very often” or “quite often” and 25% of parents with young children said their children’s sleep was disrupted “very often” or “quite often.” Belfast City Airport Watch said: “It’s quite intolerable for the airport to heap further misery on residents in the pursuit of higher profits when we already have an international airport [Belfast International] sitting in a green field site with spare capacity just up the road.”
Residents protest on first day of airport restrictions inquiry
Residents objecting to a change in the flight arrangements at Belfast City Airport have held a protest on the first day of a public inquiry.
The protestors, who gathered outside the Planning Appeals Commission in Belfast city centre, are campaigning against a proposal to end the “seats for sale” restriction, fearing “intolerable” noise levels from an increased number of flights.
However, airport chiefs claim that removing the cap would boost the economy, create jobs and attract new airlines.
Speaking on the first day of the four-day hearing on Monday, the Green Party said the airport’s attempt to “effectively bring in more frequent, bigger planes” will have a detrimental impact on 18,000 residents. East Belfast councillor Ross Brown said: “I have been contacted by numerous local householders who have told me that their sleep is already disrupted by the high noise levels. This leaves them, and their children, tired and stressed.”
The inquiry was ordered by former environment minister Alex Attwood in 2011.
Speaking ahead of the inquiry, the airport’s chief executive Brian Ambrose said: “No larger planes will use the runway than currently do so.
“Those living in proximity to the airport will continue to be protected from noise, with no night-time flights and no cargo planes.
“If the seats for sale restriction is removed, the airport will adhere to noise restrictions as imposed by the Department of the Environment.”
Belfast City Airport’s plans to treble jet flights ‘intolerable’: residents
Public inquiry starts scrutinising proposals which could seriously affect 18,000 residents
18.5.2015 (Dr Liz Fawcett, Belfast City Airport Watch)
Residents affected by aircraft noise from George Best Belfast City Airport have described the airport’s plans to potentially treble the number of jet flights from the terminal as “intolerable”.
Under the plans, which are to be considered at a public inquiry which gets underway in Belfast this morning [10am, Monday 18th May],the airport’s own figures show that the annual number of jet flights could treble from the current level of 14,000 to 43,000 if the proposals are implemented, significantly altering the current mix of aircraft types operating at the terminal.
The airport’s own figures reveal that up to 18,000 residents could be affected at a noise level which the UK government says causes significant annoyance; the projected impact is far higher than the noise footprint of major airports such as Gatwick and Stansted, where around 3,700 and 1,900 people respectively are affected at the same level.
An independent survey of 423 residents who live close to the airport’s flight path, commissioned by Belfast City Airport Watch, reveals the extent to which noise is already disrupting their lives:
- 38% of respondents described the noise of planes, while they were at home, as “very high”, compared to just 4% who described traffic noise in similar terms
- 1 in 5 respondents said planes disrupted their sleep “very often” or “quite often”
- 1 in 4 respondents with young children said their children’s sleep was disrupted “very often” or “quite often”
Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group, said the airport’s plans were unacceptable:
“We have robust evidence that many residents and their children already suffer disrupted sleep, higher stress and poorer quality of life, due to existing levels of aircraft noise.
“It’s quite intolerable for the airport to heap further misery on residents in the pursuit of higher profits when we already have an international airport sitting in a green field site with spare capacity just up the road.”
One family whose lives have already been badly affected by aircraft noise are the Driscoll family who live in Kinnegar.
Clea and John Driscoll and their sons, Tom (5) and Bobby (7) live in an enviable location close to Belfast Lough. But the pretty exterior of their blue-painted house belies a grim fact; their home is right under the flight path.
“When we first moved here, more than 10 years ago, the planes weren’t such an issue,” recalls Clea.
“But things soon got worse and, when our sons were small, the noise really disrupted their sleep.
“Now, we’ve swapped bedrooms with them, and it’s my husband and me who get woken up.
“But what really irks us is the fact that you have to keep the windows and doors shut if you don’t want to be blasted with noise; that’s very frustrating in the summer especially.”
Over in east Belfast, another affected resident is pensioner Elizabeth Bennett (74) who lives in Sydenham. She says the aircraft noise has raised her stress levels and has had a negative impact on her health:
“I’ve lived in my house for 40 years, before the airport even started, and the noise just seems to get worse and worse,” she said.
“Although I’m retired, there’s no chance of a lie-in, because the planes start at 6.30 in the morning.
“You can’t escape from the constant drone of the planes; my health has definitely suffered and I find it very hard to relax properly in my own home.
“I dread to think what it’s going to be like if these proposals are allowed.”
Another resident who suffers from the noise is Dominica McGowan who lives and works as a psychotherapist in the Ballynafeigh area of south Belfast. She says aircraft noise disrupts her work and interferes with her grandchildren’s sleep when they come to stay with her:
“The noise is so bad that I sometimes have to suspend sessions with my clients until a plane has passed – that’s very disruptive for my clients, some with significant mental health problems, and makes it difficult for me to provide the quality of care I would like to.
“And my young grandchildren can find the noise of the planes quite frightening; they often come to stay with me, but the noise disrupts their sleep which then in turn affects their mood and ability to concentrate the next day.
“I love living in Ballynafeigh which has a really vibrant community – but there’s a real risk that the quality of life in this area will be destroyed if aircraft noise gets significantly worse.”
A total of 1,308 objections were received by the Department of the Environment after the airport’s application was first made in 2012.
The public inquiry which is examining the airport’s proposals is being held by the Planning Appeals Commission at Park House, Great Victoria Street in Belfast.
The Commission has produced a timetable which envisages four days of hearings from Monday 18th May to Thursday, 21st May.
Belfast City Airport Watch will be giving evidence on Wednesday, 20th May. Among the witnesses which it will be calling is a renowned expert on the health impact of aircraft noise, Professor Eberhard Greiser, who has acted as lead investigator for a number of studies examining the links between environmental noise and public health, commissioned by the German Federal Environmental Agency. He has reviewed the likely effects of the airport’s proposals on health and children’s education.
- Belfast City Airport Watch comprises 13 residents’ and community groups across affected areas within east and south Belfast, and north Down, and one trade union branch. It also has 769 individual associate members. For more information on the campaign, visit: www.belfastcityairportwatch.co.uk
- The airport’s proposals are contained in an application to amend the terms of its planning agreement with the Department of the Environment. The airport is seeking to remove a clause which limits the annual number of seats offered for sale on flights to 2 million, and to replace the current noise threshold (referred to as a ‘noise contour’) contained in the agreement with a larger one which would have much greater noise impact and affect more people.
- The survey referred to in the press release was carried out by the market research company, Perceptive Insight, in 2012. It involved face-to-face interviews with a robust representative sample of 423 residents, aged 16 or over, living under or close to the approach flight path to George Best Belfast City Airport in east and south Belfast.
- The projected number of annual jet flights which could occur if the airport’s proposals are implemented is contained in supporting information supplied by George Best Belfast City Airport with its proposals. The current quoted annual figure of 14,000 jet flights is the approximate total number of jet flights which operated from the airport in 2014, according to figures supplied by the airport to its consultative Airport Forum.
- The projected number of people potentially affected at a serious noise level by the airport’s proposals – 18,000 – is the projected figure supplied by George Best Belfast City Airport in supporting information supplied with its proposal. The statistic relates to the number of people who could be affected by aircraft noise at or above 57 LAeq, averaged over 16 hours. Any noise at or above this threshold is recognised by the UK government as the level at which significant community annoyance is likely to be caused. See Civil Aviation Authority ERCD Report 0904. Metrics for aircraft noise, Jan. 2009, p. 6.
- The noise impact statistics relating to Gatwick and Stansted are contained in Airports Commission Discussion Paper 05: Aviation Noise, July 2013, Table 2.1. These statistics also relate to the number of people affected at or above the level referred to in note 5 above. Available here:https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/airports-commission-discussion-papers–2
At 9.30am on Monday, 18th May, outside Park House, Great Victoria St., Belfast City Airport Watch will display a banner with a colourful picture depicting the negative impact of aircraft noise on local communities. This artwork has been created by local south Belfast artist, Sinead Farry.