Minister’s decision to remove passenger limit quashed by High Court judge
Local residents affected by aircraft noise are celebrating a landmark legal victory in their campaign for tougher noise controls at George Best Belfast City Airport.
A High Court judge has quashed a decision by the previous Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, to remove a clause in the airport’s planning agreement which effectively limited the number of passengers who could fly from the airport.
The clause, which restricted the number of seats offered for sale on planes flying from the airport, was removed by Mr Poots last December.
Court orders issued in the High Court by Mr Justice Treacy, quashing the decision, mean that the Department will have to reinstate the seats for sale limit.
The umbrella residents’ group, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), had brought judicial review proceedings against the Department over the Minister’s decision.
Reacting to today’s news, the Chair of BCAW’s Steering Group, Dr Liz Fawcett said:
“This is a fantastic day for the tens of thousands of residents who are affected by noise pollution caused by planes which operate from the airport.
“We are delighted that our case has been vindicated and that the Department will now have to reinstate the seats for sale restriction.
“The restriction is an important one for residents because it limits the number of larger, noisier planes which the airport can operate.
“We are now calling on the current Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, to confirm that his Department will be enforcing this clause.”
The scale of the noise problem for residents has dramatically worsened within the last three years, and the airport’s own figures show that many more people close to Belfast City Airport are affected by a significant level of noise than is the case at major airports such as Stansted or Gatwick.
- Consultants’ reports commissioned by the airport show that 11,422 people now suffer from a level of aircraft noise deemed by the UK government to cause “significant community annoyance” – compared to just 3,522 in 2007. (57 LAeq or over, averaged over 16 hours).
- A mere 1,500 people suffer from noise at the same level close to Stansted airport, and just 3,600 experience this level of noise near Gatwick, according to figures from the Department for Transport.
- The same consultants’ reports show that 23,810 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. (This is the number who experience noise at 54 LAeq or over, averaged over 16 hours – in fact, WHO recommends a level no more than 50 LAeq but that level is not measured by the consultants’ reports).
- Further information released by the airport show that there was a 40% increase in the number of late flights at the airport last year, compared to the previous year.
- The airport’s statistics show that there was a total of 503 late flights after 9.30pm last year – an average of 1.4 late flights per day – despite the fact that the airport’s planning agreement stipulates that late flights should only occur “in exceptional circumstances”. This compares to 359 late flights in 2009.