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21/05/2015

Belfast airport planning condition inquiry kicks off

Words: Roger Milne

A public inquiry began this week to scrutinise controversial proposals to scrap the ‘seats for sale’ planning agreement that restricts the number of flights at George Best Belfast City Airport.

Residents living near the flight path oppose any changes to the current planning agreement, fearing "intolerable" noise levels from an increased number of flights.

But the airport operator says removing the restriction, which takes the form of a planning condition, would boost the economy, create jobs and attract new airlines.

Currently the airport operates under the restriction of selling two million departing seats a year. The battle for its removal has been going on for over 10 years and has resulted in a number of legal challenges.

A lawyer for the airport told the inquiry, which is being held under the aegis of the Planning Appeals Commission, that the present regime gives “no credit” to newer types of aircraft that have more seats but are quieter than older variants.

The Department of the Environment has told the inquiry that it is neutral on the hearing’s outcome, but said noise restrictions would be a more effective control than ‘seats for sale’.

In 2010, then environment minister Edwin Pots ordered the removal of the cap, a decision that has been legally challenged three times.

Image courtesy of Gwydion Williams

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