Noise fears over Belfast City Airport
Residents claim planned expansion would make it one of five loudest in UK
George Best Belfast City Airport could become one of the UK's five noisiest if controversial expansion plans get the go-ahead, a Stormont committee has been warned.
More than 50,000 people across Belfast and north Down are affected by undesirably high levels of aircraft noise, the Regional Development Committee was told.
Residents want an independent aircraft noise regulator for Northern Ireland to be appointed and robust noise fines for airlines.
Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), an umbrella body of 13 community groups in affected areas, is calling for an airports strategy to be drawn up. It also wants airport planning agreements to be properly implemented and enforced.
In a briefing to MLAs, the group said Belfast City Airport had applied to amend its planning agreement in a way that would enable it to further expand operations and relax current noise controls which have not been properly implemented and enforced.
BCAW urged the Executive to reject the proposals and told the committee the airport's own figures showed that 51,910 people were already impacted by undesirably high aircraft noise in Belfast and north Down.
"Even in 2014, the number affected by City Airport's operations at the level considered by the UK government to cause serious community annoyance (4,107) was greater than Gatwick Airport (3,550) and Stansted Airport (1,400)," a spokesperson said.
"If the airport's proposals go ahead and noise levels rise to their permitted maximum, City Airport would become one of the five noisiest in the UK in terms of population impact.
"If the City Airport succeeds in expanding further, it is likely to be at the expense of Belfast International Airport, which would simply mean a transfer of both passengers and jobs from one local airport to the other.
A spokesman for Belfast City Airport said: "There are well-established noise regulations in relation to UK airports, of which Belfast City Airport is fully compliant. These were taken into account at the recent public inquiry into the removal of the airport's redundant seats for sale restriction, which heard evidence from all parties, including the Department for Regional Development and BCAW.
"Last week's Planning Appeal Commission report recommended that the removal of the seats for sale restriction should be accompanied by additional noise controls, and the airport will be making representations to the Department of the Environment in the timeframe requested."