Belfast Telegraph

George Best Belfast City Airport: The jets were so noisy we couldn’t hear our teachers

By Linda Stewart

Children in schools under the flightpath at George Best Belfast City Airport face disruption from excessive aircraft noise, a teaching union says.

But the airport accused residents objecting to plans to set new noise thresholds over east Belfast and Holywood of attempting to use children to convey a point. It said it had a close working relationship with schools and many of its staff have children enrolled in local schools.

The airport has asked the DoE to remove the seats for sale limit of two million a year and set a new noise control cap, along with other noise control measures.

Residents group Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) warns that this means 21 schools and up to 46,000 residents across Belfast and Holywood will potentially be subjected to aircraft noise at a level above that recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Liz Fawcett, chair of Belfast City Airport Watch , said: “Under these proposals, the City Airport could become one of the noisiest in the UK, in terms of its effect on schools and the local population.

“There is a robust body of research which shows that high levels of aircraft noise impact negatively on children’s education and on people’s health.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends aircraft noise levels should not exceed 50 decibels averaged over 16 hours.

The airport’s application proposes setting a cap on the area falling within the 57 decibels level in an area between 8.1 and 9.3 square kms.

Mark Langhammer, Northern Ireland director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) teaching union, said: “Many of the schools identified by the airport are in areas which suffer from social deprivation. Their pupils are already at an educational disadvantage due to their backgrounds, they don’t need the further handicap of excessive aircraft noise.”

Katy Best, director of business development at the airport, accused campaigners of using “children to try and convey a point. The airport has never received a complaint of any nature from any schools concerning noise”.

“By volunteering a noise control cap which is legally enforceable we are protecting the community still further from noise.”

Case study

Cillian Burns (13), from Ballynafeigh in south Belfast, previously attended a primary school which is on the airport’s list of potentially affected schools. He says teaching at the school was already disrupted by aircraft noise.

“At my previous school, when a loud plane went over, the teacher had to stop talking because they couldn’t be heard, and that got really distracting at times,” he said.

“The noise can also be annoying when I'm trying to do my homework. I certainly wouldn’t want the level of noise to get any worse.”

Removing airport passenger cap could create 350 new jobs: claim

By Anna Maguire

The removal of a cap on the number of passengers using George Best Belfast City Airport could create up to 350 jobs — injecting millions into the economy — the airport’s chiefs have claimed.

There have been several calls in the past to remove the cap, which limits seats for sale at the airport in any year to two million.

Last year the High Court quashed a decision by former Environment Minister Edwin Poots to remove the limit. The current proposals are the subject of an ongoing public consultation.

At a meeting of the enterprise, trade and investment yesterday, the airport’s operations director, Mark Beattie, described the limit as outdated.

The airport’s management say removing the cap will enable them to target business clients seeking direct flights to Europe — while staying within their current restriction of 48,000 annual flights.

They claim the plans could create 350 jobs, pumping up to £22.4m into the economy.

However, residents and education groups have already raised objections about the potential increase in noise levels.

Liz Fawcett from Belfast City Airport Watch claims the proposals will subject pupils of more than 20 schools located around the east Belfast airport to noise levels above those recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Mark Langhammer, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Northern Ireland, added his support — stressing the body will oppose any drive for airport expansion at the expense of children’s education.

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