IT’S a row that’s been rumbling away for years, but is ready to take off in spectacular fashion as neighbours of Dublin Airport unite in opposition against plans for a second runway.
The airport authority secured planning in 2007 but shelved the project during the recession. Now, it’s ready to begin building, but wants two conditions imposed by An Bord Pleanala restricting night flights removed.
This is the main bone of contention, and a number of opposition groups – including FORUM (Fingal Organised Residents United Movement) and SMTW (St Margaret’s The Ward Residents) – are circling the wagons.
The airport authority has offered to buy 38 homes in the Kilrick area which fall directly under the flight path and have been designated within the 69 decibel (DB) zone. But dozens more along the 63DB contour do not qualify.
With the €320 million Runway North project due to get under way next year, and the Dublin Airport Authority (daa) determined to have flight restrictions lifted, some want insulation against noise pollution – while others plead: “Buy us out of this misery.”
John Harris has lived at Newtown Cottages in St. Margaret’s since 1983 – before the new runway opened nearby in 1988. Now retired, he says he can’t enjoy his home, and he just wants out. He told The Gazette: “I lived in Australia and was used to big open spaces, so when I moved home to Ireland it suited me to live here. I had five years of relative quiet – then the noise started.
“In 1989, there were five million passengers going through the airport; there were 25 million last year. It’s constant noise. It’s worse at night, because you want to open your window to get some air, but you can’t.
“Between 11pm and 1am, you’d hear a lot of flights coming in. It’s a noise you can never get used to. I’m lucky if I can get four hours’ decent sleep a night.
“I think 32 years of it is enough. We have a nice house, but we can’t enjoy it. I honestly think the daa should buy us all out. There’s growing concern that they will have those conditions lifted – that means flights 24 hours a day.
“Personally, I would love to be bought out. As a member of the community, I would love people to be given that option. People say to me: ‘Surely you knew it would be noisy when you bought the house?’ But when we bought the house, flights were going over Finglas and it was miles away from us. And, yes, aircraft are quieter now, but there are a lot more of them now, and if that number doubles then I dread to think what life will be like.”
Pauline McGuinness has lived in The Ward – just 1km from the existing runway – for 18 years. She is secretary of the SMTW committee, and wants effective noise insulation for all homes affected.
She says the map the daa used to segregate houses into noise pollution categories is splitting the community, and she feels they face a David vs Goliath struggle. And, despite having to endure an aircraft flying low overhead every two minutes she does not want to move out of the community and is calling on the daa to extend its soundproofing scheme.
She told The Gazette: “I built the house 20 years ago and there is absolutely nothing in my planning permission that said anything about aeroplanes going overhead. And now that they’re talking about a second runway, you could have a flight every 45 seconds.
“I don’t have a problem with the runway going ahead – I just want the conditions to stay as they are. If they are overturned, they [the daa] have said at peak times both runways will be used together. That will be 200 planes a night.
“And why don’t they offer everyone insulation, not pick and choose? There are people who live 200 yards from me who’ve been offered insulation, and people 10 yards to one side of them who haven’t. It’s a way of splitting the community,” she said.
“We’re not experts – we brought ourselves up to speed because we had to. We are a committee of nine or 10 people against a whole floor of solicitors and advisors.
“St Margaret’s is an ageing population. We’ve lost a whole generation out of our community, including my own son, because you can’t build new houses in the area.”
She added: “I enjoy coming out to the garden, but when I cut the grass now I cut it with a pair of earphones on just so I don’t have to listen to the noise overhead. You never get used to it. What it has done is, it’s made people come in out of their back gardens, come in out of their front gardens, and has started to split up a community.”
As it pushes ahead with plans to start construction, the airport authority remains adamant it wants the two conditions limiting night flights scrapped.
Spokesperson Siobhan O’Donnell said: “We stated at the outset that we are seeking to have the conditions removed and we are looking at the best mechanism to do that at the moment.
“If we were to pull back to the 65 aircraft movements, the airport would lose three million passengers. That in turn has an impact on jobs … about 1,200 jobs at the airport would be lost.”
Aebhric McGibney, director of international affairs with Dublin Chamber, sees a second runway as an essential piece of infrastructure for economic growth.
He said: “The runway is at capacity and we need to plan for growth. If we don’t build this second runway, there are plenty of other countries in Europe that are going to beat us to it, and who will take that extra business away from us.”
Owen Corry, editor of Travel Extra, said: “It’s really important that the residents and Dublin Airport get their act together on this.
“We do not need a delay caused by an impasse, because the industry doesn’t hang around. There are lots of other airports across western Europe that would love to be in the position that Dublin Airport is in now, but haven’t got the opportunity. If Dublin dilly-dallies around, they will take it.”