Government given six months to come up with new flight routes at Brussels Airport

Government given six months to come up with new flight routes at Brussels Airport
Airplane landing at Brussels Airport, in Zaventem. Credit: Belga

The Federal Government has again received an unfavourable court ruling regarding the new procedures for take-offs and landings at Brussels Airport. Only a few months old, new runway timings will now need to be decided.

The Brussels Court of First Instance ruled in favour of the Flemish government and five municipalities (Grimbergen, Machelen, Meise, Wemmel and Vilvoorde) who took the State to court over new take-off and landing procedures which were implemented in October 2023. The claimants argued that this shifted the noise nuisance to Flanders, away from the Brussels-Capital Region.

"Radar and noise measurements have clearly shown that the municipalities in the north and north-west of the Flemish periphery [the "Rand] in particular are now more heavily impacted," said Flemish Minister for this district, Ben Weyts.

The ruling comes just weeks before ministers are expected to announce a long-awaited decision regarding a new environmental permit for Brussels Airport, which has come under fire from many angles.

Unliveable situation

Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) has previously argued that the changes made in October would not have an effect on noise pollution. However the claimants argue that flights have been concentrated over a smaller number of people, pointing out that the change has narrowed the take-off corridor from six miles to just one. This affects residents both day and night making the situation for them "unlivable".

A study commissioned by the Flemish Association for a Better Environment (BBL) has also shown that the noise of aircraft flying overhead causes severe health damage, from chronic sleep disruption to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Weyts also argued that the changes to the route were made without any consultation and go against a previous ruling that required the Federal Government to pay compensation to affected municipalities.

"And now the Federal Government has been condemned again." On Thursday, a court ruled that the Federal Government must work out new flight routes within six months. Weyts called for "a fair distribution of the burdens associated with the Zaventem airport".

"We cannot and will never accept interventions that aim to turn Brussels into a kind of no-fly zone, and pass everything on to Flanders." Weyts added that if the verdict is ignored, Flanders will demand additional penalty payments for each day that these municipalities "remain affected by this excessive nuisance".

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The airport is located in Flanders to the northeast of Brussels, meaning residents here are also impacted by air traffic. Authorities have for years been debating a fair distribution of the noise nuisance. The Federal Government has also paid millions in penalty fines to the Brussels Region and another large sum to 313 individual residents in the east of Brussels.

Gilkinet told Het Laatste Nieuws that an adjustment is imminent and that he has been working towards new navigation procedures which rely on a satellite system. Under the current ruling, the State does not have to pay additional penalties because the judge "assumes that the government can work out a solution in a relatively short period".

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