Fury over bid to drop passenger cap at Belfast City Airport
Residents living near George Best Belfast City Airport have reacted furiously to a Government suggestion that a cap on passenger numbers may be lifted.
While airport bosses welcomed Environment Minister Edwin Poots' announcement that he is to consider scrapping the two million seats for sale annual limit, a group representing many householders below the flightpath hit out at the move.
Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) claimed removing the cap would have grave implications for those local people already affected by aircraft noise.
The development comes as residents continue to oppose plans to extend the airport's runway - a controversial proposal that will be examined by a public inquiry later this year.
"We're horrified at the potential implication of allowing the airport to handle as many passengers as it wishes," said Dr Liz Fawcett, BCAW's Steering Group Chair.
"This decision will almost certainly lead to a significant expansion by stealth of the airport and the noise problem suffered by residents.
"Until now, the passenger restriction meant a mixture of small and large aircraft used the airport.
"If this move goes ahead, there would be nothing to stop every plane being one of the larger and noisier types which currently fly from the airport - that would be an absolute nightmare for residents."
While the restriction limiting the number of flights per year to 48,000 will remain in place, BCAW claim removing the cap on passenger numbers will allow operators to use bigger and noisier planes on more routes.
Mr Poots said he had decided to review the planning agreement that had set the cap after the airport introduced new noise monitoring equipment.