Court orders end to 2 flight paths over Brussels, which have been strongly opposed since February
In response to the heated opposition by thousands of Francophone residents of Brussels, and the successful “Pas Question” campaign, a court in Brussels has ordered that two of the new flight paths over the city should be stopped. These are a flight path called “Canal” and one called “turn left” from the airport. These flight paths came into operation on 6th February this year, under the “Plan Wathelet” and reflect the complicated politics of Belgium. The judgement, by the Brussels Court of First Instance, must be applied within 3 months or otherwise there is a penalty of a fine of €50,000 per day. The ordinance imposes in effect a return to the situation prior to February 6th. The association “Pas Question” describes the judgement as an “immense relief” that what they describe as a nightmare of living with the aircraft noise for 175 days has ended. They expect the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Mobility to take “immediate” measures required to implement the court decision and change flight paths away from heavily populated routes. There need to be impact assessment studies, and consultation, before flight paths are changed – a broader solution for all residents affected by the airport.
Brussels airport CEO wants more flights, and more night flights – claiming benefit to the economy and more jobs
Where have we heard this sort of thing before? Increase the number of flights to boost employment at Brussels Airport. That’s the idea of the CEO of the airport of Zaventem. Who cares about the restrictions on noise standards? Brussels Airport currently generates 60,000 jobs, direct and indirect. The owner of the airport is estimated that 10,000 more people could still be hired in the next ten years. To do this, he wants to increase the number of movements per hour from 74 to 80 and increase the ceiling of 16,000 slots night per year. He claims restrictions, especially on night flights, would have an “economically fatal” character. He claims relocating some flights to regional airports would damage the economy (ie. his airport’s profits). If restrictions cut the amount of air freght at Brussels airport, he says the freight would not be transferred to Belgian regional airports, but would instead lost to Belgium.
Convoluted Brussels coalition and flightpath politics cause public furore
Thousands of people in Brussels are up in arms about a new overflight plan that started on 6th February, causing parts of the city subject to the thundering noise of planes using Brussels airport. The Belgian government has only a couple of weeks left to find a solution for a problem that dates back many, many years. As the airport is close to densely populated parts of the city, its flight paths would always over-fly a lot of people. The political choices of who should have to suffer the noise are complicated. Should the burden of the noise be shared between various areas? The flight path change is reported to be because, with the May elections this year, Melchior Wathelet (Sec of State for Environment, Energy, Mobility etc) of the Francophone Christian Democtrats (cdH) decided to do a political favour for the party’s vice prime minister, Joelle Milquet, by tweaking the flight paths over some municipalities, to help with votes. The Wathelet Plan decision can be blocked, under the constitution, for 60 days. That ends at the start of July. It is likely to be the out-going coalition that makes the decision. Lots of politics ….. parties will assess how the vote affects their political chances ….
Belgians are asking Canadian pension fund to put pressure on government to reverse Brussels flight path changes
Brussels airport is managed by the Brussels Airport Company, which is 39% owned of Canadian pension fund Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) which is the 2nd largest manager of institutional funds in Canada. It invests the pension funds of 307,000 active and retired teachers working in public schools in Ontario. Now a group of Belgians are asking administrators of OTPP to put pressure on the Belgian authorities to reverse the decision, taken in February, to change flight paths over central Brussels. Opponents of the flight path changes say the new routes triple the number of people affected by aircraft noise. The campaign, “Pas Question!” say: “Imagine that the (Canadian) Federal Government directed 50% of the planes taking off from Toronto airport over the city center. And everything to relieve the periphery! ” They believe it is a political decision, and must be reversed by politicians. The government has indicated it may be open to revision of the plans, but rejects the idea of returning to the old flight paths.
“Pas Question!” [“No Way!”] group in Brussels fights the hated Wathelet Plan flight path changes
On 6th February this year, Melchior Wathelet (Belgium’s secretary of state in charge of Environment, Energy and Mobility) introduced a plan that reorganizes the departure routes from Brussels airport in Zaventem. As a result of this “Wathelet Plan”, the majority of departing aircraft are routed over densely populated areas of central and southern Brussels. The changes are deeply controversial and deeply unpopular among the Brussels residents, who have not been intensively over-flown before. There is huge anger about the changes, and that the numbers over-flown are now far higher than before. On the plus side, some areas that were previously over-flown now have fewer flights. Now almost 18,000 residents have signed a petition to suspend the Wathelet Plan. Its opponents say it was introduced without any prior consultation with local residents, and that in other EU countries, such a consultation process is a regulatory requirement before any change to aircraft flight paths is made. An active group called “Pas Question!” – which means “No Way!” has formed, and they regard the new flight paths as nonsensical. They want the plan cancelled, and are convinced that an alternative policy is possible.
Protest in Brussels as new flight paths over-fly new areas, giving some respite to those previously heavily over-flown