Cautious welcome from Belfast City residents for airport noise consultation
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.
Far higher number of residents suffering from serious noise than at major UK airports
28th March 2012
Belfast City Airport Watch
Local residents have given a cautious welcome to news that the Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, is to hold an inquiry and consultation aimed at addressing the issue of aircraft noise linked to George Best Belfast City Airport.
Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group said:
“We greatly welcome the fact that the Minister says he wishes to act decisively to achieve the right balance between a desire for airport expansion, and the need to protect the quality of life of residents.
“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.
“We also face the alarming prospect of several new international routes operating out of City which are likely to push up noise levels even further.
“It is therefore imperative that the process which has been initiated by the Minister results in a tougher airport Planning Agreement which is properly enforced.
“If the end result is anything less, the needs of tens of thousands of residents will have been sacrificed for the sake of the airport’s commercial interests.”
The facts about aircraft noise linked to Belfast City Airport are as follows:
- Consultants’ reports commissioned by the airport show that 6,195 people now suffer from a level of aircraft noise deemed by the UK government to cause “significant community annoyance” – compared to 3,522 in 2007.
- The same reports show that 11,422 people suffered from this level of noise in 2010, the last year in which Ryanair operated from the airport.
- A mere 1,400 people suffer from noise at the same level close to Stansted airport, and just 2,850 experience this level of noise near Gatwick, according to figures from the Department for Transport.
- The same consultants’ reports show that 17,412 people living near the City Airport suffer aircraft noise at a higher level than that recommended by the World Health Organisation – compared to 12,084 in 2007.
Low-cost airline, bmibaby, has announced that it is planning to operate eight new international routes by this summer – using the same type of aircraft which it currently operates out of Belfast City Airport, the 737-300, but with additional engine thrust.
Campaigners believe the use of the extra thrust, combined with the likely higher and heavier load of fuel required will make these flights even noisier than the domestic flights currently operated by bmibaby from the airport.
Bmibaby said it had not ruled out operating further international routes from the airport if the planned ones proved successful.
- Belfast City AirportWatch comprises 20 residents’ and community groups across affected areas within east and south Belfast, and north Down. For more information on the campaign, visit: www.belfastcityairportwatch.co.uk
- The Airport’s Planning Agreement is an agreement between the Department of the Environment and the Airport. The current Agreement came into force on 14th October 2008.
- The Department of the Environment previously commissioned an Examination in Public into the Planning Agreement between George Best Belfast City Airport and the Department. However, the recommendations of that inquiry were never implemented nor enforced in full.
- Belfast City Airport Watch
Attwood to initiate Public Inquiry into GBBCA Planning Agreement
The Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced that he has initiated a public process to modify the existing Planning Agreement between the Department and George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA).
Alex Attwood said: “My objective in seeking to modify this Planning Agreement is to achieve a fair, effective and enforceable noise management system. What I want to see is a system that provides appropriate protection for the local community and surrounding environment. The system will provide operational flexibility and commercial certainty for the airport with the environment protected and the quality of life respected.
“This process will be transparent and inclusive. I am proposing that the process will be subject to Public Examination with a decision taken on the modifications by early Summer 2012. The overall approach in seeking this change to the Planning Agreement is about balancing public and private interests in terms of what is best for the North.
“The ultimate aim is to achieve the right balance between the social and economic benefits of airport expansion with the need to protect the quality of life for local residents and the environment.”
The process will include a public consultation on proposals for a noise management system, to be brought forward by GBBCA. This will include a Public Examination to independently consider all of the issues and to report to the Minister.
Following consideration of the report on the Public Examination, the Minister will decide what modifications should be included in the Planning Agreement.