Residents’ fury at token airport ‘action plan’

Controversial noise plan approved as noise impact doubles

Residents in south and east Belfast affected by aircraft noise from George Best Belfast City Airport say they’re furious that the Department of the Environment has approved an airport ‘noise action plan’ which doesn’t meet its own guidance.

The five-year plan fails to outline how the airport is going to reduce noise for those residents worst affected by the issue, despite the fact that the Department says airport noise action plans should include such proposals.

The Department’s decision comes as it’s emerged that the number of people seriously affected by aircraft noise has more than doubled within the space of a year – from 3,728 in 2012 to 8,247 last year. The figures, compiled by the airport’s own consultants, also show that more than 20,000 people were subjected to aircraft noise at a level which many observers consider to be significant.

Responding to the news, Belfast City Airport Watch said:

“The ‘noise action plan’ process was instigated by the European Union to help reduce undue levels of aircraft noise.

 “The Department’s decision to approve a so-called action plan which doesn’t meet its own guidance really beggars belief.

 “We’ve written to the Department to urge it to review this illogical and unjust decision.”

The airport’s draft noise action plan, published last summer, was sharply criticised by Belfast City Council which called on the airport to promise action to reduce noise for those residents who were most seriously affected.

However, the airport has not heeded its call and the final version of the ‘action plan’ contains no such undertaking.

BCAW says that the whole process is now flawed and must be reviewed:

“We have a fundamental problem with the fact that airports are allowed to draw up their own noise action plans in the first place.

“However, it’s quite unacceptable for the Department to issue guidance on drawing up these plans and then to turn a blind eye when the airport fails to comply with it.”

Notes:

  • Belfast City Airport Watch comprises 18 residents’ and community groups across affected areas within east and south Belfast, and north Down, one trade union branch and one schools’ project. It also has 785 individual associate members.
  • George Best Belfast City Airport’s Noise Action Plan 2013 – 2018 is available here.
  • The Department’s guidance on the production of an airport noise action plan is available here. Section 6 provides guidance on measures to help reduce noise for those residents who are most seriously affected.
  • The 2012 and 2013 noise impact figures are published in an annual noise impact report produced by Bickerdike Allen Partners for George Best Belfast City Airport. It shows that 3,728 people were affected by noise at or above 57 dB LAeq 16h in 2012, and 8,247 at or above the same level in 2013. 57 dB LAeq 16h is the threshold at which the UK government officially recognises that ‘significant community annoyance’ is likely to commence. However, a more recent study commissioned by the government found that many people were very annoyed by aircraft noise at or above 50 dB LAeq 16h. See here. The Bickerdike Allen report, referred to above, found that a total of 20, 471 were affected by noise at or above 54 dB LAeq 16h in 2013, compared to 12,600 in 2012.
  • The decision by Belfast City Council, referred to in this release, can be viewed here (item 20a).

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