Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Four out of five want George Best Belfast City Airport's seats limit lifted, poll reveals

George Best Belfast City Airport
George Best Belfast City Airport

A new poll suggests that 82.1% of people in Northern Ireland are in favour of lifting the seats for sale cap at Belfast City Airport.

The cap, which limits the number of seats offered for sale on planes flying out of the airport to two million a year, was removed from the planning agreement by then Environment Minister Edwin Poots in 2011.

But that was quashed at the High Court by Mr Justice Treacy shortly afterwards with a challenge by Belfast City Airport Watch, an umbrella group for residents' groups near the airport.

The next Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, pledged to hold a public inquiry to explore the issue but this became bogged down in delays over the supply of information and is not now expected to take place until next year.

Last night George Best Belfast City Airport said the limit dates back to a time when the airport was housed in a mobile building.

It said the LucidTalk poll revealed that 71.2% of those who expressed an opinion were not aware that the airport is limited to operating hours of between 6.30am and 9.30pm, and that 86.1% did not know that flights were capped at 48,000 a year.

Meanwhile, 96.7% who expressed an opinion did not know it was the only airport in the world with a seats for sale restriction.

Katy Best, commercial and marketing director with George Best Belfast City Airport, said: "We are seeking the removal of the seats for sale restriction but not looking to change our operating hours or the number of flights we handle each year. No bigger or louder aircraft will use the airport, should the restriction be removed.

"As an island, we rely on air travel and are delighted so many members of the public realise the importance of the removal of this restriction to our business.

"The airport plays an important role in the economic fabric of Northern Ireland and the continual investment in our facilities by our shareholder ensures we are a jewel in the crown of Belfast."

Ms Best said the airport was one of the most restricted in Europe and the only one in the world with a limit on seats for sale.

"Removal of this restriction would directly and indirectly impact economic growth to the region, which cannot be overlooked, especially in today's economic climate," she said. "We work hard to balance the growth of our business with the need to protect the quality of life for our local community and the environment. We've undertaken a series of measures to protect the local population from noise with no heavy aircraft using the airport and strict operating hours with no late night flights."

A DoE spokesman said: "The City Airport's request to remove the seats for sale restriction from the planning agreement will be considered at an independent public inquiry in the new year.

"All relevant information on the airport's request, including the view of members of the public, will be considered at the inquiry and taken into account by the Planning Appeals Commission in their report and recommendations to the minister.

"In these circumstances, the department considers it inappropriate to comment at this time on the poll undertaken by the airport."

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