August 28, 2008

Residents Urge Airport to Fund Noise-Proofing


Residents of two streets are appealing to Belfast City airport bosses to fund noise-proofing measures for their homes.

People living in a pocket of houses under the flightpath are appealing to the airport to pay for triple glazing to cut the noise of overhead planes - but the airport insists it is under no legal obligation to do so.

PUP councillor John Kyle said the residents of Connswater Mews and Connswater Grove are suffering genuine hardship as theirs are the only homes in the area to have single glazing.

"I think they are in a very difficult situation - it's really a very tough, tough spot where they are living because of the noise," he said.

"Their houses were some of the first wave of redevelopment in the Mersey Street area and the volume of air traffic has increased enormously since they were built.

"These are some of the most disadvantaged residents in east Belfast, and yet BCA has shown no concern for their plight."

Councillor Kyle admitted the airport is only required by the Government to fund noise insulation measures for homes that lie within the 63 decibel Leq noise contour surrounding the airport, but insisted this threshold should be lowered to 57db Leq.

The homes at Connswater Mews and Connswater Grove lie outside the 63db contour, but within the 57db contour.

Airport operators at two of the other three designated city airports in Europe have taken part in noise insulation schemes for affected residents, he said.

"On its website, the Civil Aviation Authority says the 57db Leq contour corresponds to the onset of significant community annoyance based on large scale studies in the UK," the councillor said.

However, the airport insisted it adheres to standards set by the Government and no homes lie within the noise contour footprint that requires BCA to contribute to noise protection.

It said the practice of other city airports in Europe is a non- issue as BCA follows UK Government legislation which applies at all UK airports. BCA chief executive Brian Ambrose said it was up to the Government to set standards, not the airport.

"We as an airport are governed by national standards and we comply with them quite willingly. To me it's a bit of a non-issue if local residents would like us to behave differently," he said.

"If people ask the airport to do things over and above what the legislation requires, it makes it difficult to know where to draw the line."

The airport has also ruled out jointly-funding noise insulation with housing association Connswater Homes, which is responsible for maintaining the houses.

They say they have been unsuccessful in finding grant aid to accelerate its maintenance programme so the houses can have their glazing updated.

However, in recent months it has asked consultants to survey the 31 houses and report back to the board on their condition.

Business improvement manager Catherine Wentworth said: "The report should be with us any time soon and it will cover life expectancy, energy efficiency and acoustic issues with single glazing and replacement costs.

"We will consider the results of the survey and report back to the board. We can't do anything until we have that report in, but it is a cost issue."

Originally published by LINDA McKEE ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT [email protected]

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