Belfast Airport 'Seats For Sale' Restriction Ends

The Stormont Environment Minister Edwin Poots has just announced a decision to remove the controversial 'seats for sale' restriction at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Previously, no more than two million seats could be sold from the airport in any year.

However, the Minister is also keeping another ruling on the total number of air traffic movements at 48,000 in place.

In spite of this, passenger numbers will now rise, as each flight can now be use a larger capacity aircraft, much to the annoyance of local residents groups such as Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group who have been campaigning against the seats cap being removed.

On Monday, Mr Poots explained: "Having given the matter careful consideration and taken into account the issues raised in response to the consultation, I have decided to remove the restriction."

Under the terms of the 2008 modified Planning Agreement, operators using the airport could not offer for sale any more than two million seats from the airport in any period of 12 months.

Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) has reacted with annoyance and said the limit was a crucial aspect of the airport's planning agreement, which is designed to protect local communities against undue levels of aircraft noise.

"The Minister is flying in the face of a recommendation by the Assembly's Environment Committee which said, just weeks ago, that the airport's stipulated passenger limit should remain in place for now," said BCAW's spokesperson, Dr Liz Fawcett.

"There will now be nothing to stop all 48,000 of the permitted annual flights in and out of the airport from using the larger, noisier type of planes which have been operating there - and that will greatly increase the misery of people living under the flight path.

"If further airport expansion is felt desirable in Northern Ireland, there's a perfectly good international airport just 20 miles from Belfast.

"In these circumstances, we can't understand why the Minister is ignoring the needs of the tens of thousands of ordinary people affected by aircraft noise, and placing the commercial interests of one airport above their health and quality of life," she fumed.

The East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle has also said the Environment Minister should have listened to the Stormont Environment Committee's call to defer removing the cap on passenger numbers for Belfast City Airport, saying this issue should only be considered as part of the public inquiry into the runway extension.

"Around a month and a half ago, the Environment Committee called for the Minister to defer removing the cap on passenger numbers at the airport so that it can be considered in conjunction with or after the runway extension. Why has the Minister gone against this pragmatic and useful recommendation?" he said.

"People have massive fears about more noise pollution and we needed to examine this issue carefully and comprehensively. We need full consultation on this important issue.

"The issue of the cap should have only been considered as part of or after the public inquiry. I am deeply disappointed that the Minister has taken this decision independently of and ahead of the inquiry."

Meanwhile, a public inquiry into a proposed runway extension at Belfast City Airport remains delayed amid a dispute over a noise pollution report submitted by the airport.

The airport wants to extend the northeast end of the runway by 590m while retracting 120m from the southwest.

However, residents are also opposed to the extension, fearing it will lead again to bigger and noisier planes using the runway.


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