Brussels Airport has presented its neighbouring municipalities with a document outlying its plans to expand from 26 to 32 million annual passengers by 2032 and double the number of cargo transports. These plans were called “unrealistic” and relying on “incomplete figures” during a joint press conference on Thursday 23 February, reported by Belga news agency.
The airport is located in the Flemish municipality of Zaventem, but is under the authority of the Federal Government. For years, the local governments of Flanders and the Brussels Capital Region have been arguing with the airport over noise pollution. On Thursday, the municipalities of Machelen, Grimbergen, Meise and Wemmel and the city of Vilvoorde, all located in the Flemish Brabant province that surrounds the Brussels Capital Region, questioned the airport’s proposed plan for expansion.
The EIA shows that the number of residents in our municipalities who are disturbed 10 to 20 times per night is rising sharply.
While recognising the economic importance of the airport, local authorities raised concerns over how side effects from the increased traffic were not presented in the 700-page document. Moreover, they questioned the viability of the environmental impact report (EIA), which fails to present clear forecasts and is based on “incomplete figures”.
The municipalities also find it hard to believe that, at the same time the airport plans to expand, it claims that current schedules, during the day and at night, as well as flight paths will remain unchanged. Moreover, they call attention to the disproportionate effect the airport has on Brussels residents, with those in the north suffering much more than the rest. “If the airport is of general interest, the nuisance it causes should be borne by as many shoulders as possible”, they said.
“The EIA shows that the number of residents in our municipalities who are disturbed 10 to 20 times per night (now 41,817) is rising sharply (by 13%)”, Meise Mayor Gerda vanden Brande said. “At the same time, we note that in the eastern municipalities (…), this number will be reduced to zero in 2032. This difference in treatment is completely unacceptable to the northern municipalities.”
Besides the backlash from the neighbouring municipalities, the city council of Brussels adopted a motion on 16 January officially requesting the Federal Government to forbid flights over the city between 10 pm and 7 am, with the exception of the emergency situations stipulated by law. Moreover, the city is asking for an annual limit on the number of flights to and from Brussels Airport, based on health, environmental and economic issues, while outdated aircraft that exceed certain noise thresholds should be completely prohibited. The motion also asks the government to retain the principle of avoiding flights over densely populated areas as much as possible “in order to respect the general interest, public health and safety of the population”. All of these could further impede the airport’s expansion plans.