Row as airport rejects EU directive on aircraft noise
Belfast City Council is on a collision course with George Best City Airport after the airport declined to take measures recommended to protect residents affected worst by aircraft noise.
Councillors have accused the airport of trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities after it refused to set up a Noise Management Area in the residential area most affected by noise.
An EU Noise Directive recommended that a Noise Management Area where control measures would be in play should be set up for the 1% of residents most affected by aircraft.
In Belfast, that would apply to residents living in a band across Sydenham, Mersey Street and close to Victoria Park. However, the airport has said this was merely a recommendation and it was only obliged to declare a Noise Management Area if the noise was louder.
Councillor John Kyle said: "It's important the the City Airport don't try to wriggle out of their responsibility to create a Noise Management Area."
Last week, Belfast City Council called on the airport to consider setting up a Noise Management Area and to consider ways of reducing exposure to noise for people in the worst affected areas. Vonnine Hanna, who lives in Connswater Grove, said: "If you are out standing talking to somebody in the street and a plane comes over you have to stop talking – you can't hear what they're saying."
A spokeswoman for George Best Belfast City Airport said: "The airport along with others such as Translink and Roads Service must submit a Noise Action Plan to the Department of the Environment as part of the European Noise Directive.
"We will give careful consideration to all feedback from consultees, including Belfast City Council, before finalising the plan. The airport is acutely aware of the environment and community within which it operates. We will continue to implement our noise management programme and adhere to our planning agreement with regards to the operation of flights within our scheduled operating hours.
"Less than 1% of total flights last year operated between 21.30 and our curfew of 23.59, due to exceptional circumstances. The airport will continue to fine airlines that operate flights within these hours, with all fines dispersed via our community fund."
The EU Noise Directive requires competent authorities to undertake periodic strategic noise mapping to identify population exposure to noise and then to produce action plans to reduce noise levels where necessary, and to preserve environmental noise quality where it is good. This is achieved through the formal designation of Noise Management Areas. In Northern Ireland, competent authorities are DRD, Translink, George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport, and the Department of the Environment.