Cap on passenger numbers to end
A cap limiting the numbers of passengers flying from Belfast City Airport is to be lifted, Stormont's environment minister has announced.
Edwin Poots said removing the two million restriction would have no impact on the 48,000 per year limit on flights.
Earlier this year the minister said he was minded to remove the bar, but his scrutiny committee at Stormont had urged him to delay a decision until the still-to-start public inquiry on controversial plans to extend the runway was heard.
But Mr Poots, who launched a public consultation exercise on the cap, has not opted for that course.
"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," he said.
The cap was first introduced to ensure the then modest terminal facilities on the east Belfast site were not overcrowded.
But with a new larger terminal now up and running, the airport claimed the retention of the limit was not necessary.
Nearby residents opposed to expansion at the airport argued that while the restriction on flight numbers would remain, lifting the cap would enable carriers to use larger airplanes to carry more people.
They insist that is intrinsically linked to the airport`s bid to extend the runway by 600 metres (1,968ft) - a development that would allow heavier planes to land and take off.
Stormont's Environment committee agreed with that view and had called on the minister to postpone his decision until the runway issue was resolved.