Choice of Fingal council to regulate airport noise ‘dodgy’, TD claims

Concerns raised with Shane Ross about local authority’s reliance on north Dublin facility

Concerns have been expressed about the appointment of Fingal County Council to regulate noise at Dublin Airport. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Concerns have been expressed about the appointment of Fingal County Council to regulate noise at Dublin Airport. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

A decision to appoint Fingal County Council as the noise regulator for Dublin Airport is an “almighty, massive somersault” and “dodgy”, Minister for Transport Shane Ross has been told.

Under EU rules the appointment of a noise regulator was required before the commissioning of the proposed second runway at Dublin Airport. The regulator would potentially be able to set limits on take-offs and landings at the airport, particularly at night time, when the new runway opens in 2021.

Mr Ross had previously said the “competent authority” for noise control under the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Bill (2018) would be the Irish Aviation Authority.

But on Tuesday Mr Ross said Fingal County Council was “a better fit” than the the Irish Aviation Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

He told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that the Attorney General had advised “the aviation authority is not independent”.

In addition, he said there was “legislation in the pipeline to break up the AAI”.

“We made a decision on the back of legal advice,” Mr Ross said. “I can’t take higher or more compelling advice” than that of the Attorney General.

Well placed

Mr Ross said Fingal County Council was familiar with the planning process and environmental protection measures. He said the council was well placed to take public submissions, organise a transparent decision-making process, and include a right of appeal as well as a right to judicial review.

He said nine new positions had been sanctioned within the council, which would be funded by a levy on the airport.

However, a number of TDs claimed the airport complex contributes up to 20 per cent of the council’s income and had been paid tens of millions of euro in development levies by DAA (formerly Dublin Airport Authority).

Robert Troy TD (Fianna Fáil), Imelda Munster TD (Sinn Féin), Clare Daly TD (Independents4Change) and Brendan Ryan (Labour) outlined concerns about the council’s independence from the airport.

Ms Daly said the EPA had no record of even being asked if it was interested in the role, despite currently recording noise levels at the airport.

“Approving Fingal is a pretty dodgy course of action to take,” she said.

She told the committee the switch from the aviation authority to the council was “an almighty, massive somersault”.

Ms Munster said the council was “reliant on the airport for funds” and “should be replaced” by the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

Mr Ryan said he believed “the Minister has got it wrong” and he called on Mr Ross “to take on board” what the committee members were saying.

Mr Troy said the runway was an important piece of infrastructure and called on the Minister to at least ensure a special directorate within the council was established to be “independent” of the commercial relationship between it and the airport.