Belfast Telegraph

Call for airport to scrap runway extension plans

by Natalie Gorman

The announcement of seven new routes from Belfast City Airport has led to calls that the public “are being duped” over controversial runway extension proposals.

Yesterday, Wednesday April 13, bmibaby announced that it will base two additional aircraft at Belfast City Airport and offer seven new routes.

Independent Assembly candidate Dawn Purvis said: “I am most concerned about what this says about the planned runway extension at Belfast City Airport.

“We were told the runway extension was necessary to bring in new routes — were the airport duping the public? I would call on the owners of Belfast City Airport to withdraw their unpopular plans to extend the runway, a plan that is causing such distress to those living in the shadow of the airport and that will bring with it more planes flying lower to homes.

“While it is wonderful that new flights and new destinations are available to Northern Irish travellers, this announcement will have a negative impact on the residents who live on and near the flight path who are already suffering with increasing noise.”

UUP MLA candidate Michael Copeland said: “As a member of the travelling public, I welcome the news, however, I have heard the two bmibaby aircrafts to be used have had their engines modified to create a larger thrust to cope with the length of the runway. If this is the case, will the increased levels of noise from the engines impact on those living in the local vicinity and under the flight path? This needs to be answered.”

Dr Liz Fawcett, the chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch Steering Group (BCAW), said: “It’s completely inappropriate for an airport on the doorstep of major residential areas to be permitted to become an international airport when we already have an international airport on a virtual greenfield site just up the road.”

Dr Fawcett also pointed out that five of the new routes are to holiday destinations which will simply entice local people to take breaks abroad without bringing the return traffic.

Welcoming bmibaby’s decision, Brian Ambrose, airport chief executive, said: “This is the most significant announcement in Belfast City Airport’s recent history and is a welcome reward to all the staff who work tirelessly to make this airport world class.

“Direct European routes have long been an ambition of this airport and we believe strongly that our growing customer base throughout Northern Ireland will avail of the bmibaby services.”

He said the runway extension was still necessary to attract other airlines.

Andrew Irvine, Belfast City Centre Management, said it was “fantastic news for Belfast city centre businesses and traders, who stand to benefit from the inward tourism that these routes will generate.

“The direct European access provided by these routes comes at an excellent time as the city readies itself to host the MTV European Music Awards in 2011, and to welcome visitors to our Titanic celebrations next year.”

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