Belfast Telegraph

George Best Belfast City Airport must cap seat numbers

Court action quashes minister's decision to lift limit on passengers

By Claire McNeilly

George Best Belfast City Airport has been told it must restrict its passenger numbers after legal action brought about by a rival airport.

The news comes after the High Court yesterday quashed a decision to lift the cap that limits seats for sale in any year to two million.

It follows successful legal challenges against the move, which was announced by former Environment Minister Edwin Poots. Under current legislation, 48,000 air traffic movements (ATMs or flights) are understood to be permitted from Belfast City Airport every year.

Information recently received by the Department of the Environment (DoE) indicates that 2.7 million passengers were carried on 43,000 flights from George Best City - 5,000 short of its quota.

An airport spokesman confirmed that these figures are likely to fall next year, partly because of the loss of Ryanair. "We will continue to work closely with the department to agree a noise contour and to engage in a process to modify our existing planning agreement," he said.

Competitor Belfast International Airport (BIA) brought judicial review proceedings against removing the controversial restriction, claiming that the decision announced last December by the then minister was unlawful.

A further challenge centred on claims that the seats restriction was lifted without checking whether there was an effective noise control system and an improved noise management system in place at the City Airport.

Belfast City Airport Watch, a group acting for local residents affected by aircraft noise, also issued similar proceedings against the department. Dr Liz Fawcett, group chairwoman, said it was a "fantastic day" for residents who are affected by noise pollution.

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