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New consultation panel to tackle issue of Brussels Airport flight noise

09:35 04/10/2021

A new consultation platform has been launched to try to resolve the thorny issue of airplane noise due to flights over Brussels and its outskirts.

Organised by Belgium's federal mobility minister Georges Gilkinet, the first working meeting took place last week, behind closed doors, away from the press.

Some 80 people were present, with as many competing interests. Included were the mayors of Brussels and those from municipalities in the two Brabants, airport authorities, airlines and residents.

The meeting had the goal of attempting to rekindle dialogue but its mega-conference format left some doubters. Among them was Frédéric Petit, the mayor of Wezembeek-Oppem and a representative of an association of residents heavily impacted by the problem due to the geographic location of the municipality which puts it in the middle of a number of flight paths.

"It is obviously a huge challenge," Petit said. "It will be very difficult to find a consensus between parties which often have diametrically opposed interests."

Emotions often run high in these discussions so the minister mandated that a neutral and independent person moderate the meeting - but some participants were not sure why they were there.

"We are here because we were asked to," said Vincent De Wolf, the mayor of Etterbeek, "but the conference of mayors, which I chair, has already made its position clear by adopting a resolution which stipulates that Brussels Airport, as an urban airport, should operate during daytime hours only. During night-time hours, which are from 22.00 to 7.00 there should be no flying over densely populated areas."

The meeting created a framework, by drawing up the table of contents of the long discussions of the coming months. The ultimate goal is for the members of this consultation platform to reach a common opinion to be sent to the minister.

Written by Richard Harris