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Poots announces airport public inquiry

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Environment Minister Edwin Poots today announced that he is to ask the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) to hold a public inquiry to consider the application from George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA) to extend its runway.

Minister Poots said: “Having given the application significant consideration, I have decided that the best way forward is by public inquiry. The application raises matters that may not be resolved through the normal planning process and will remain at issue. A public inquiry will provide a forum for the presentation and consideration of these issues.”

The Planning Service has considered the Environmental Impact Statement and other documentation submitted with the application, the views of bodies with environmental responsibilities, the letters of support and objection, the relevant planning policies and the views of Belfast City Council, other elected representatives, and the considerable public debate.

Minster Poots added: “I have listened carefully to all the arguments in this case and I have decided that, in the interests of everyone concerned, it needs further consideration. Because of the significant issues at stake, I have instructed my officials to ask the Planning Appeals Commission to hold a public inquiry and to request that the inquiry is given a high priority”.

Notes to editors:

  1. The application, accompanied by an environmental statement, was submitted on 14 November 2008 by the George Best Belfast City Airport. It was designated under article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order 1991 on 23 December 2008.
  2. The proposal seeks full planning permission for a runway extension by 590m at the north east end of the existing runway and a retraction by 120m at the south west end of the existing runway, along with associated landing lights and ancillary works.
  3. An addendum to the environmental statement dealing with the issue of nesting birds was submitted to the Department on 6 February 2009, and a second addendum was submitted on 22 June 2009. A copy of the environmental statement was made available for public viewing at the Belfast Divisional Planning Office and at Planning Service Headquarters.
  4. 1,486 letters of objection with eight petitions containing 499 signatures have been received, and 2,241 letters of support have also been received.
  5. The George Best Belfast City Airport is located on the southern shores of Belfast Lough adjacent to the A2 arterial route linking Belfast with Bangor. The 121 hectare site is situated on reclaimed lands within the Belfast Harbour Estate. The site includes the main terminal building and control tower, the existing runway (1,829 metres), area of car parking and the former terminal building. The actual site for the proposed runway extension is an area of grassland between the end of the existing runway and the north-east perimeter fence.
  6. Planning Policy Statement 1 states that the Department may decide to hold a public inquiry into a major planning application to consider representations and where material planning factors are subject of dispute.
  7. While the Department can indicate the priority that should be given to a public inquiry, the programming is ultimately a matter for PAC.
  8. All media enquiries should be directed to the DOE Press Office on 028 9054 0003. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.