Belfast City residents appalled by failure to enforce noise regulations

9.9.2010 (Belfast City Airport Watch)

Response by Belfast City Airport Watch to this morning’s (09/09/10) briefing
by officials of Assembly Environment Committee:

The residents’ group, Belfast City Airport Watch, has expressed amazement at
the failure of the Planning Service to enforce noise regulations at George Best
Belfast City Airport.

Their comments came after one of the most senior officials in the DOE’s Planning
Service this morning admitted to the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Environment Committee
that the agency was not enforcing two key conditions of the planning agreement
between the airport and the DOE, an agreement which is meant to protect local
residents from undue aircraft noise pollution. Tom Clarke, Director of Strategic
Planning at the agency, conceded that the Planning Service:

·                 Was taking no action despite knowing that the airport has breached a limit of
2,000,000 on the number of seats for offered for sale which effectively restricts
the number of larger, noisier aircraft which can be operated from the airport
[ he admitted this limit was breached in the twelve months to end of July 2010]

·                 Was taking no action on the fact that hundreds of flights have landed at and
departed from the airport after the ‘curfew’ time of 9.30pm in the last 19 months
[637 flights from January 2009 to July 2010 inclusive, according to Planning
Service figs supplied to BCAW] – despite the fact late flights are only supposed to happen in "exceptional circumstances"

·                 Did not know what precise impact the Environment Minister’s proposed removal
of the seats for sale limit might have on the mix and types of aircraft operating
at the airport

"We are stunned by the complacency shown by the Planning Service officials who
briefed the Committee this morning," said Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the residents’
group, Belfast City Airport Watch.

"The planning agreement is the main protection residents have against undue levels
of noise pollution and the Planning Service is just walking away from its responsibilities
to enforce it.

"Given that tens of thousands of residents in east and south Belfast, and north
Down, are affected by aircraft noise linked to the City Airport, this is an act
of gross negligence.

"The fact that the Environment Minister is actually proposing to weaken the planning
agreement when it isn’t even being implemented properly really is even more disturbing.

"The Minister has not even held a properly advertised public consultation on
his proposal to remove the seats for sale limit – if this is what passes for democracy
at the Department of the Environment, it really is a shambles."

Dr Fawcett added that residents are not opposed per se to the existence of the
City Airport.

"We appreciate that the City Airport brings economic benefits, but there has
to be a balance between the commercial interests of the airport, and the health
and quality of life of residents," she said.

"At the moment, the situation is tipped far too far towards the interests of
the airport."