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Aircraft noise complaints down - because people despair lack of progress

20:10 07/09/2020

Noise pollution complaints to Brussels Airport’s mediation service dropped dramatically last year – from 94,374 in 2018 to 41,575, the service announced this weekend in its annual report for 2019. Levels fell by more than 56%. This followed the 28% decrease in complaints already seen in 2018 compared to 2017.

Philippe Touwaide, director of the mediation service, said the dramatic case reduction could be simply because residents are tired of complaining when they do not see the authorities doing anything to help with aircraft noise levels. There have been calls notably to stop planes running between 22.00 and 7.00 and for a ban on noisy Boeing 747s.

The service has made many proposals to federal mobility minister François Bellot to improve the environment of "overflight zones" north (for example Diegem and Machelen) and east (notably Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Stockel, Kraainem and Wezembeek-Oppem) of Brussels, as well as in the east side of the airport around Kortenberg, Leuven and Bertem, and in the Walloon Brabant region (Waterloo, Braine l’Alleud, La Hulpe and Lasne).

The recommendations include cutting noise levels allowed for aircraft, particularly between 6.00 and 7.00. Nothing has been done for five years, Touwaide regrets. “No improvements have been carried out since 2014. Residents are demotivated and, not seeing any progress being made, they believe that it’s no longer any point in complaining.”  

He says the choice of runway plays a large part in consumer satisfaction. “The more the standard runways are used [25 left and above all 25 right], the less we receive complaints.” But when alternative runways are used, questions and complaints come flooding in. Landings on runway 01 for example cause negative reactions particularly from Woluwe-Saint-Pierre and Wezembeek-Oppem.

Written by Liz Newmark