Noise nuisance Zaventem back on the table: ‘Brussels should not become a noise bucket’

Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) will speed up the thorny file of noise nuisance around Brussels Airport. Sweeping the perennial problem of flight disruptions off the runway seems impossible, but Gilkinet hopes to address the problem a bit with a series of proposals. Among other things, he is looking at new noise standards for aircraft and more vertical take-off and landing movements.

Gilkinet has so far been relatively quiet about the airport nuisance, but did it La Dernière Heure some suggestions.

The protest against the nuisance caused by planes over a number of Flemish, Brussels and Walloon municipalities has dragged on for decades, resulting in all sorts of lawsuits. Attempts to tackle the precarious issue politically often fail in communal squabbles between the various federal states.

For example, an investigation commissioned three years ago by former mobility minister François Bellot (MR) was rejected by the court following a complaint from the Brussels region.

French agency Envisa then went back to the drawing board and delivered a revised impact study in June. It clashed with the Flemish resistance. The Flemish minister responsible for the Flemish periphery Ben Weyts (N-VA) let in The standard Note that in seven of the nine scenarios proposed by Envisa, the genes were “shifted or concentrated over the Flemish region”.

Wind standards

“It is a pity that Flanders is critical of the results of a study for which it has not itself submitted proposals”, says Litte Frooninckx, spokeswoman for Gilkinet. “We will now put forward structural solutions that unite instead of divide.”

The Green Deputy Prime Minister’s main message: Brussels must not become Europe’s ‘noise dustbin’. “The clarification of the wind standards can contribute to this,” says Frooninckx. Gilkinet already had a report done to show if there are runways that are being used excessively.

In continuation of this is the establishment of an independent control body, which will check whether the choice of lanes can be made more according to the procedure. “That choice is in the hands of the air traffic controller and depends on the direction of the wind – planes must invariably take off and land against the wind direction. Of course, safety also plays a crucial role. Last month the minister called for stricter compliance with the procedure because it can have a positive impact on noise pollution.’

more vertical

The abolition of night flights has also been on the table again since the impact assessment, as has the improvement of take-off and landing procedures. “They must be more vertical. The higher the plane, the less noise impact on nearby residents.” A technical working group has been set up for this purpose.

At the same time, renewed noise standards must indirectly ensure that the fleet is modernised. Gilkinet also plans to review the airlines’ prices, taking into account the new standards and the time of landing and take-off of their flights. “We want to keep the noisiest flights away from Brussels, especially at the beginning and end of the day, at night and at weekends.”

© Photonews

| Federal Minister for Mobility Georges Gilkinet

Night flights over Brussels

The Minister for Mobility wants to focus mainly on that package of measures, but also aims for further investigations and hearings. “For example, we want to have a study done on the consequences of night flights over Brussels for public health,” says Frooninckx. There are contacts with FPS Folkesundhed to realize such an investigation.

“A General State – a consultation platform with representatives of stakeholders, local residents, the airport and the regions – has also met four times and will meet again this autumn.”

Magic wand

In any case, the noise file around Brussels airport promises to remain complex. “This file is historically too sensitive and is also simply complex from a factual point of view. Zaventem is simply too close to densely populated residential areas. There is no magic wand to solve it, but it is a priority for the Minister. But anyone who think there are easy solutions in this file, are either mistaken or lying.”

According to Gilkinet, the real problem is the high number of aircraft in Belgian airspace. “We are working hard on alternatives to the plane for short and medium distances, such as night trains. More specifically, the minister is pushing at European level for a review of the exemption from excise duty on petroleum, especially for private aircraft.”

Earlier this year, a survey by the head of Brussels Airport’s ombudsman showed that Woluwe-Saint-Pierre is the most overcrowded Brussels municipality. Residents of the municipality could heard more than 26,000 planes take off or land last year.

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