Local politicians have welcomed the setting up of a public inquiry into a controversial runway extension at George Best Belfast City Airport.
However, airport bosses have warned that any further delay in implementing a proposed £8 million development may risk major investments.
Carriers, which have already been waiting 18 months for the outcome of a planning application, could now lose patience, according to the airport’s chief executive.
Brian Ambrose said the move, announced by Stormont Environment Minister Edwin Poots, had “completely frustrated” the airport's Swiss owners.
“It makes our job all the more difficult to keep airlines here and convince them there's a future here if our efforts to develop are thwarted,” he said.
Meanwhile, local MLAs, Conall McDevitt and Dr Alasdair McDonnell, have welcomed the inquiry.
Dr McDonnell described it as “a victory for the human rights of the south and east Belfast public”.
“There has been a concerted campaign of political lobbying carried out on behalf of the City Airport which, if it had been allowed to go unchallenged, would have been a denial of democracy for many thousands of people,” he said.
Mr McDevitt pointed out that the “huge volume” of community objections to the extension reflected “much public concern”.
He called on members of the public to engage with the inquiry.