A decision on scrapping a cap on passenger numbers at Belfast City Airport should wait until a public inquiry on its controversial runway extension is completed, a Stormont committee urged the Environment Minister today.
Edwin Poots’s scrutiny committee made the call after hearing evidence from residents opposed to the lifting of the two million passengers annual limit.
Airport chief executive Brian Ambrose also briefed members at the special meeting in Parliament Buildings.
In the summer, Poots said he was inclined to ditch the cap – which equates to four million seats for sale – as he launched a public consultation exercise on the proposal.
While the restriction limiting the number of flights per year to 48,000 will remain in place, residents claim removing the passenger numbers cap will allow operators to use bigger and noisier planes on more routes.
With the proposed 600-metre runway extension designed to enable planes with heavier loads to use the airport, campaigners believe the two issues are intrinsically linked.
A majority of committee members agreed.
SDLP member Patsy McGlone said: “I would be firmly of the view that any decision should not be taken in the absence of the other.
“In other words you wait until the public inquiry is completed with its conclusions before you make any decision on the other because they are related and anybody who tries to tell me that they aren’t are on a different world.”
But the DUP’s Peter Weir insisted there was no connection and he voted against the committee decision.
The public inquiry on the extension has yet to commence.