Belfast City Airport campaigners call for independent airport noise regulator to look after interests of residents
Because of its geographical location, the noise created by Belfast City Airport flights affects a large number of people in the city. The local campaign, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) is an umbrella group representing more than a dozen local community organisations, and works to limit the noise they suffer. BCAW’s Dr Liz Fawcett told committee members the establishment that the creation of a powerful independent airport noise regulator in Northern Ireland would help strike a better balance between commercial interests and nearby residents’ well-being. It should ensure conformity with existing noise control measures. The airport is currently capped at 2 million passengers per year, but wants to increase this number – which would mean a considerable increase in the noise. BCAW say if the 2 million cap was raised, it could turn the airport into one of the noisiest in the UK. They want an independent noise regulator to deal effectively with public complaints and produce “meaningful” 5-year action plans aimed at minimising aircraft noise. They also want a wider airports strategy for Northern Ireland, considering how routes are shared between the two Belfast airports, to complement Dublin airport, without duplication of routes.
Belfast campaigners call for independent airport noise regulator
10.2.2016 (Express & Star)
The creation of a powerful independent airport noise regulator in Northern Ireland would help strike a better balance between commercial interests and nearby residents’ well-being, campaigners have claimed.
Robust fines for breaches of current noises limits would provide a strong deterrent against infractions, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) told a Stormont committee.
The umbrella group that represents more than a dozen residents and community associations under the flight path of George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA) was giving evidence to members of the Assembly’s Regional Development Committee.
The hearing was held as Stormont Environment minister Mark H Durkan continues to deliberate on a planning application lodged by the airport to lift the two million annual cap on the number of seats it can sell.
While Mr Durkan’s department has responsibility for planning issues related to the airport, the Department of Regional Development (DRD) has a role in the regulation of aircraft noise.
BCAW is opposed to the removal of the sales cap, claiming it will turn the airport into one of the noisiest in the UK.
It has also recommended a range of other steps that the Stormont Executive could take with regards to regulating the air travel sector in the region, some of which would fall to the DRD to oversee.
Dr Liz Fawcett from BCAW told committee members the establishment of a regulator would ensure conformity with existing noise control measures.
She said the body could also deal effectively with public complaints and produce “meaningful” five-year action plans aimed at minimising noise pollution from aircraft.
The campaigners have also advocated the development of a wider airports strategy for Northern Ireland.
They claim unchecked competition between Belfast City and Belfast International, often with duplication of routes, will only force customers across the border to Dublin airport.
“We believe that the Northern Ireland Executive faces a choice,” said Dr Fawcett.
“It can continue to permit the piecemeal expansion of airports, allowing them to duplicate provision and permitting GBBCA to become one of the noisiest airports anywhere in the UK and the island of Ireland in terms of population impact.
“The only winners will be Dublin Airport and the airlines, while the losers will be our local economy, and the health and quality of life of tens of thousands in residents in Belfast and north Down.
“Alternatively, the Executive can put in place a robust economic and regulatory framework which allows our aviation industry to compete effectively with and complement Dublin Airport’s growing portfolio of routes, while ensuring that the negative impacts of aircraft noise are kept to an absolute minimum.”
Earlier this month, Northern Ireland’s Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) said lifting the seat sale cap should be accompanied by tougher noise controls.
The PAC’s findings came after a public inquiry into the controversial issue last year.
Belfast residents claim planned airport expansion would make it one of 5 loudest in UK
George Best Belfast City Airport could become one of the UK’s five noisiest if controversial expansion plans to allow the airport to have more than 2 million passengers per year are allowed. Dr Liz Fawcett, of Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), gave evidence to the Regional Development Committee at Stormont, saying that some 18,000 people could be affected by noise if the expansion goes ahead. She called for an independent regulator to be set up, to strike a better balance between commercial interests and nearby residents’ well-being. They also want robust fines for airlines. Recently the Planning Appeals Committee recommended that the 2 million limit should be lifted – provided that other noise control measures are put in place. More than 50,000 people across Belfast and north Down are affected by undesirably high levels of aircraft noise. That number is higher than at Gatwick or at Stansted. Dr Fawcett said if the airport is allowed its expansion, it could become one of the five noisiest in the UK in terms of population impact. It would also just mean the transfer of passengers and jobs from Belfast International airport. BCAW also wants airport planning agreements to be properly implemented and enforced. The airport continues to press for the greater number of passengers.