Residents welcome airport public inquiry

Local residents have welcomed the decision by Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, to hold a public inquiry into the runway extension proposal submitted by George Best Belfast City Airport.

Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), which represents residents in east and south Belfast, and in north Down, says the group is delighted that the controversial proposal will now be subject to rigorous scrutiny.

“An extended runway would mean an international airport right on Belfast’s doorstep,” said Liz Fawcett, a spokesperson for BCAW.

“While we had hoped that Mr Poots might have rejected this ludicrous proposal outright, we’re very glad that it will now be subjected to robust scrutiny.”

Just days ago, it emerged that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s official aviation regulator, had submitted a damning report on the runway extension proposal to the Planning Service.

The CAA’s detailed report was heavily critical of vital information submitted by the airport in support of its plan. In its report, the CAA:

  • highlighted the fact that, if the runway extension went ahead, there would be little to prevent huge aeroplanes, such as A310 Airbuses and Boeing 757s, from using the airport
  • concluded that the methodology used to calculate the likely additional noise impact resulting from a runway extension is misleading and has seriously underestimated the potential scale of the problem
  • criticised the airport for assuming it will be flouting the current official cap on its passenger numbers by nearly one million more passengers than is actually permitted under the airport’s existing planning agreement with the Planning Service
  • took the airport to task for failing to provide sufficient detail on its future air traffic forecasts in stark contrast to other UK airports making similar planning applications

“The CAA report  made it abundantly clear that the airport is not prepared to come clean on its true intentions and is happy to flout any planning restrictions imposed if it thinks it can get away with it,” said Ms Fawcett. “The report vindicated many of the points we have been making.”

Belfast City Airport Watch opposes the runway extension proposal because an extended runway would enable planes to carry larger loads of passengers and fuel, leading to heavier aircraft and greater levels of noise. The proposal would also enable the airport to greatly expand its operations.

Both these points were supported by the CAA report which stated that, in terms of the proposed runway length alone, it would be possible to operate larger aircraft from the extended runway, possibly with some adaptations to ground infrastructure.

Last year, BCAW carried out a survey of more than 400 individuals in areas in east and south Belfast, and in north Down, affected by aircraft noise from the City Airport.

The shock findings from this survey demonstrated the extent to which aircraft noise is already a very real problem for many residents:

  • More than three-quarters (78%) of the 412 individuals surveyed said that aircraft noise affected their sleep
  • Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they often had to stop talking when a plane flew over because they couldn’t be heard
  • Of the 157 respondents with children, nearly half (46%) said their children weren’t getting enough sleep because of aircraft noise.

More than a third (34%) of those with children said their children found aircraft noise frightening.

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