Belfast City Airport Watch 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.
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.
We 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.