Belfast City airport inquiry delayed by noise pollution report
A public inquiry into the proposed runway extension at George Best Belfast City
Airport is to be delayed amid a dispute over a noise pollution report submitted
by the airport.
The airport wants to extend the north east end of the runway by 590m while retracting
120m from the south west.
Residents are opposed to the extension, fearing it will lead to bigger and noisier
planes using the runway.
The airport has said this could create 100 jobs and £120m in tourism revenue.
There have been 1,486 letters of objection and petitions with 499 names and 2,241
letters of support sent to the authorities over the scheme.
In March, the Environment Minister Edwin Poots announced there would be a public
inquiry into the plans.
Mr Poots said he had taken the decision in the “interests of everyone concerned”.
The Planning Appeals Commision which is running the inquiry said it will not
start until it gets more information from the airport about possible noise pollution.
The airport said it wished to see the public inquiry handled in a timely fashion
but couldn’t comment further at this stage.
The residents’ representative, Dr Liz Fawcett said the delay was “entirely avoidable”.
“If the airport had put all the correct information about noise on the table
at the outset instead of that the Planning Appeals Commision has made quite clear,
that the information isn’t accurate or comprehensive.
“We need the airport to come clean about the dreadful, devasting impact that
this is going to have on residents.
She said it would be a “nightmare” for residents if the extension went ahead.
“Already residents are having to put up with being woken up at 0630 in the morning
with flights going on right through until midnight and continual noise that’s
disrupting their sleep.
“We’re going to end up, if we have a runway extension with an international airport.”
George Best Belfast City Airport said it needed the extra length so some planes
could take on more fuel to fly further.
If the plans go ahead, they will create around seven new destinations from the
airport, including Brussels, Frankfurt, Madrid and Munich.
It is unclear when the public inquiry will now begin.
George Best Belfast City Airport said if it is not completed by early next year,
it puts their plans back until at least 2012.
Belfast City Airport Watch press release:
Residents welcome Commissioners’ stand on public inquiry
Tuesday, 10th August
Residents have welcomed the tough stand taken by the Planning Appeals Commission
which has halted the public inquiry into the proposed runway extension at George
Best Belfast City Airport.
In a highly unusual move, the Commission has refused to go any further with the
inquiry until the Department of the Environment obtains more robust and complete
noise-related environmental data from the airport.
The Department’s Planning Service had suggested the airport could submit further
information once the inquiry hearings were underway, but the Commission has refused
to accept this proposal, making it clear this could give rise to an undue delay
as in the Sprucefield public inquiry.
Reacting to the news, Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch
Steering Group, said:
"We are really glad that the Commission has stood its ground against a shameful
proposal by the Planning Service which would have given a really unfair advantage
to the airport.
"Had the airport been allowed to submit further information at the last minute,
residents and other objectors would have had scant time to scrutinise it properly
and we would have been at a real disadvantage.
"We’re also glad that the Commission has seen the patent flaws in the noise data
submitted to date by the airport – information which was heavily criticised by
the Civil Aviation Authority in a report commissioned and initially suppressed
by the Planning Service."
The detailed Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report was heavily critical of vital
noise information submitted by the airport in support of its plan. In its report,
the CAA, which is the UK’s official aviation regulator:
· took the airport to task for failing to provide sufficient detail on
its future air traffic forecasts in stark contrast to other UK airports making
similar planning applications
· concluded that the methodology used to calculate the likely additional
noise impact resulting from a runway extension was misleading and had seriously
underestimated the potential scale of the problem
· highlighted the fact that, if the runway extension went ahead, there
would be little to prevent huge aeroplanes, such as A310 Airbuses and Boeing 757s,
from using the airport
· criticised the airport for assuming it would be flouting the current
official cap on its passenger numbers by nearly one million more passengers than
is actually permitted under the airport’s existing planning agreement with the
The Department of the Environment and the Planning Service initially resisted
requests to publish the CAA’s report, which was completed in November 2009, on
the basis that it was an ‘internal’ document. Its damning contents eventually
came to light in March this year.
Belfast City Airport Watch opposes the runway extension proposal because an extended
runway would enable planes to carry larger loads of passengers and fuel, leading
to heavier aircraft and greater levels of noise. The proposal would also enable
the airport to greatly expand its operations.
Both these points were supported by the CAA report which states that, in terms
of the proposed runway length alone, it would be possible to operate larger aircraft
from the extended runway, possibly with some adaptations to ground infrastructure.
In its letter to the Planning Service informing it of its decision to delay the
inquiry, the Commission also refers to the need for fuller information on comments
received from objectors and supporters to the airport’s application. In a response
to a Freedom of Information request by BCAW, the Planning Service recently revealed
that 2,209 of the 2,242 "letters of support" it received with regard to the application
were actually postcards.
1. Belfast City AirportWatch comprises fifteen residents’ and community-based
groups across affected areas within east and south Belfast, and north Down. For
more information on the campaign, visit: www.belfastcityairportwatch.co.uk
2. Details of the decision by the Planning Appeals Commission and relevant
correspondence can be viewed at: http://www.pacni.gov.uk/index/major_planning_applications1.htm The most recent letter, dated 5th August, details the Commission’s decision.
3. The CAA’s report can be viewed at: http://www.belfastcityairportwatch.co.uk/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=46&Itemid=59
more news and information about Belfast City Airport