Plans for a public inquiry to decide the fate of a controversial proposed runway extension at George Best Belfast City Airport have been left in limbo after the Planning Appeals Commission announced it would be unable to set a start date.
The preparations for the public inquiry — announced by Environment Minister Edwin Poots earlier this summer — have ended in stalemate after the PAC warned planners that not enough information had been made available.
Campaigners opposed to the runway extension welcomed what they described as the “tough stand” taken by the PAC against a proposal that would have given an “unfair advantage” to the airport.
The row between planners and the PAC over the hotly contested development was revealed exclusively in the Belfast Telegraph last week after a series of increasing fractious letters was released.
The PAC now says it is unable to arrange the requested public inquiry, saying the information on third party representations is incomplete and it has asked the Department to address the adequacy of the environmental information about the application.
The letters have now been posted publicly on the PAC website.
The Commission cited concerns raised by the Civil Aviation Au
thority about the Environmental Statement — covering issues |such as noise — that accompanies the planning application. The Department admitted deficiencies with the statement and wished to add to it during the inquiry itself.
Campaigners opposed to the development said they were glad the Commission had stood its ground against the “shameful proposal” by Planning Service which would have given an unfair advantage to the airport.
Dr Liz Fawcett, chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group, said: “Had the airport been allowed to submit further information at the last minute, residents and other objectors would have had scant time to scrutinise it properly and we would have been at a real disadvantage.
“We’re also glad that the Commission has seen the patent flaws in the noise data submitted to date by the airport.”