Planning Portal

Safety Zones at Belfast Airports

Published on Tue, 18 Dec 2007 by
Environment Minister, Arlene Foster, today issued final planning guidelines restricting development in Airport Public Safety Zones in Northern Ireland.
The new policy accompanies confirmation of revised Safety Zones at the George Best Belfast City and Belfast International Airports. These were prepared by the Department for Transport using a new methodology introduced in 2002 and which is progressively being rolled out at major airports across the UK.
The Minister said: “The introduction of revised Public Safety Zones for the Belfast airports and an updated policy framework will help bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK. The reason behind these measures is to control the volume of people on the ground in the vicinity of airports at risk of death or injury in the event of an aircraft accident on take-off or landing. This is primarily achieved by restricting new development. The basic objective is that there should be no increase in the number of people living, working or congregating in these areas and that, over time, the number should be reduced as circumstances allow.
“although the risk to people on the ground as a result of an aircraft accident is low compared with many other risks that most people face in their daily lives, it is necessary to ensure that appropriate precautionary measures are put in place for areas close to the ends of busier runways.”
The Minister stressed that public safety is the paramount consideration for proposals affecting Airport Safety Zones. Her final planning guidelines have therefore confirmed the strong presumption against development introduced as a precautionary measure when put out to consultation last year.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Secretary of State for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority are responsible for civil aviation safety throughout the UK while land use planning is devolved in Northern Ireland to the Department of the Environment. The Department for Transport (DfT) maintains a policy to control activity and development within Public Safety Zones close to the ends of airport runways. The basic policy objective governing the restriction on development near civil airports is that there should be no increase in the number of people living, working or congregating in Public Safety Zones (PSZ) and that, over time, the number should be reduced as circumstances allow.
  2. Only the largest civil airports throughout the UK have PSZs. In Northern Ireland the only airports affected are the George Best Belfast City and Belfast International Airports. The level of risk around less busy airports, like City of Derry and smaller aerodromes does not warrant the introduction of PSZs but the position is kept under review where traffic levels are increasing.
  3. The new planning policy guidelines for PSZs in Northern Ireland are contained in ‘Control of Development in Airport Public Safety Zones’. This sets out the planning controls which will apply to development within these zones and incorporates policy guidance produced by DfT for implementation throughout the UK by local and regional authorities with powers to control development and to restrict the use of land.
  4. Most existing development within a PSZ can remain there, but many types of new development are not permitted. In a few cases at UK airports where there have been residential, commercial or industrial properties within the higher risk contour adjacent to the ends of a runway, it has been necessary for those properties to be emptied. However, checks have indicated that there are no such properties in the case of the Belfast Airports.
  5. A public consultation draft of ‘Control of Development in Airport Public Safety Zones’ was issued in October 2006. In total 5 responses were received none of which were raised on the delineation of the revised PSZs prepared by DfT. Responses to the draft policy document itself were generally minor in nature.  All comments have been addressed in a Summary of Responses.
  6. The Policy Document, Summary of Responses and maps indicating the new PSZs at the Belfast Airports are available on this website or be obtained from DOE’s Planning and Environmental Policy Group, River House, 48 High Street, Belfast BT1 2AW.
  7. For media enquiries contact DOE Press Office on 028 9054 0003.
Get Adobe Reader software (link opens in a new browser window)