Sunday 16 December 2018

New runway noise decision is 'wrong'

John Manning

An umbrella group representing neighbours of Dublin Airport across Portmarnock, Swords and St Margaret's has criticised the Government announcement that Fingal County Council is to become the new noise regulator for Dublin Airport, claiming the council 'cannot be independent'.

Despite the council's assertions that it will 'deliver a robust and independent regulatory system', Fingal Organised Residents United Movement (FORUM) is arguing that Fingal County Council relies heavily on Dublin Airport as its biggest commercial rate-payer and cannot be independent in deciding on noise control issues at Dublin Airport.

The decision would give Fingal County Council the power to potentially overturn planning conditions attached to the development of the new runway at Dublin Airport that restrict night-time flying at the airport.

Residents close to the airport insist those conditions must remain but the daa argue strongly that its business would suffer and its passenger numbers would drop significantly if restrictions on night-time flying are imposed when the new runway becomes operational. When Fingal County Council first granted planning permission for the new runway, it did not impose any restrictions on night-time flights.

Those restrictions were only added on appeal to An Bord Pleanála. If Fingal is given the power to overturn those later conditions, FORUM is concerned the local authority will take that opportunity.

FORUM spokesperson, David Kelly claimed the council could not act with independence in the matter because 'the daa is the biggest ratepayer to Fingal County Council'. FORUM are also questioning whether the council can gather the expertise to implement a noise control regime at Dublin Airport. The group favours the Government's original plan to appoint the Irish Aviation Authority as a national independent noise regulator, a plan that was abandoned after legal advice that the IAA would have a conflict of interest. 

But FORUM believe the council's conflict of interest is greater and it plans to oppose its appointment as noise regulator as primary legislation is brought through the Oireachtas to enact the new airport noise control regime.

Mr Kelly said that FORUM will be asking people to 'lobby their politicians and lodge their objections' to the proposal. He stressed the organisation was 'not anti-runway, we are just anti-night time flights'.

The FORUM spokesperson said: 'Every other airport in Europe is regulated highly and there are virtually no night time flights. We want to see the development of the runway go ahead but not at the expense of people's health or sleep.' Portmarnock councillor, Cllr Brian McDonagh (Lab) said that while he does not doubt the professionalism of council staff, 'whether we like it or not, there is a conflict'. 

He said that council has publicly supported the development of the airport and the council regards Dublin Airport as 'partners'. 

He said: 'There is nothing wrong with that - that is just a statement of fact, but we are trying to appoint a national and independent body here.' He said he believed the Minister for Transport's decision was  'wrong'. He argued the Environmental Protection Agency should take on the role as national airport noise regulator.

Fingal Independent