Belfast Telegraph

Fury as 278 flights break Belfast airport night curfew

Department of the Environment (DoE) chiefs have been accused of inaction as it emerged there have already been 278 late night flights breaching the curfew at George Best Belfast City Airport in the first seven months of this year.

Furious residents living in the busy flightpath hit out at the DoE as the 32% pro rata hike on last year’s 359 late night flights was revealed.

Under a planning agreement between the City Airport and the DoE, flights should only operate between 6.30am and 9.30pm, bar “exceptional circumstances”.

Residents’ group Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) accused the DoE and its minister Edwin Poots of not enforcing the planning agreement.

Dr Liz Fawcett, chair of the BCAW, said: “Under the planning agreement between the airport and the DoE, late flights are only supposed to happen in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

“The department has a legal responsibility to enforce that agreement — and yet it’s telling us in this letter that it’s simply sitting back and letting the airport break the agreement.

“It’s a complete abdication of the department’s responsibilities.”

In February 2009 airport management confirmed that airlines were to be fined over late flights, as first recommended by the DoE’s Examination in Public report in 2006, with the money levied going to a Community Fund.

Under the system, airlines were supposed to pay £50 for flights between 9.45pm and 10pm. The fines rise to £600 for flights after 11pm.

Dr Fawcett said the group will be raising the late night flight issue and the enforcement of the planning agreement with the Assembly’s environment committee. She added: “The Environment Minister cannot walk away from his legal responsibilities in this manner, leaving residents to suffer the consequences.

“We hope the environment committee will hold the minister to account over this matter.”

A planning spokesman said: “The 2008 Planning Agreement provides for delayed scheduled flights during extended hours of 9.31pm and 11.59pm local time.

“The department has no legal powers to impose a system of fines or penalties.”

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