Belfast Telegraph

Residents’ meeting reveals anger over airport plans

by Michael Bashford

Residents and political representatives from north Down and east and south Belfast met last week to discuss concerns relating to George Best Belfast City Airport.

The meeting, at Connswater Community Centre, discussed recent incidents of roof tiles being dislodged by alleged low flying planes, proposals to remove the cap on passenger numbers and the public inquiry into plans to extend the airport’s runway.

The meeting was organised by Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), an umbrella group representing 17 residents’ and community groups from the areas affected by the airport.

Political representatives included Steven Agnew from the Green Party and South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt. The meeting was chaired by Liz Fawcett, from the BCAW steering group.

Mr Agnew said: “There was clearly a lot of anger in the room.

“There is a feeling that the Environment Minister (Edwin Poots) is very much on the side of the airport and is dismissive of residents’ concerns. His predecessor granted the airport’s request to weaken the Planning Agreement which governs the airport’s operations.

“Now the current environment minister says he is ‘minded’ to lift the cap on passenger numbers despite this being in place to protect local residents from excessive noise.”

Invitations to speak at the meeting went out to the environment minister and representatives from the airport , but were not accepted.

Mr Agnew continued: “The minister and the airport’s management seem to think that they can make decisions without consulting the very people whose lives these decisions will affect.

“This is highlighted by the failure of the minister and the airport to send representatives to the meeting.

“Compounding this is the minister’s very narrow consultation on the proposal to remove the cap on passenger numbers. Only Belfast and North Down councils and the Airport Forum are to be consulted while Belfast City Airport Watch has been excluded.”

John Collins, a local resident, presented a response to his Freedom of Information request from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It included the CAA’s report which concludes that the airport’s projections in its Environmental Statement show that they will breach the current passenger limit.

“As the airport submitted its Environmental Statement before making a request to lift the passenger cap it would seem that the airport has simply assumed that its request would be granted,” Mr Agnew added.

A spokesperson for the airport said: “Belfast City Airport meet on a regular basis with local residents groups who are represented on the Airport Forum. We find that the seven residents’ groups on the forum are truly representative of local opinion which is generally balanced and responsive to the fact based discussions.”

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