Flight routes into and out of Brussels Airport were established over the last couple of decades on the basis of “dubious criteria,” without being preceded by thorough analysis of the impact on residents, according to a new report. The report, compiled by the French consultancy Envisa on a commission from federal mobility minister François Bellot, details how the same lack of procedure carried on through “more changes than normal” over the last 20 years. Bellot was ordered to commission the report by the Tribunal of First Instance in the latest of the long series of legal challenges to flight-path changes.
In this case, the complaint in 2017 came when the Brussels regional government decided to fine airline companies whose aircraft exceeded noise limits it had set down. The new limits were also challenged by the Flemish region, which argued that the strict noise limits would simply force planes to divert away from Brussels s far as possible, thereby increasing the nuisance for residents of surrounding communes in Flanders.
The report also criticises the power of mobility ministers in Belgium to set flight routes, which it describes as “operational matters” which in many other countries are dealt with by administrations created for the purpose. The result – a set of arbitrary rules based mainly on complaints from the public, often manipulated for political purposes and subject to too many changes based on too little analysis.
The courts themselves also come in for their share of criticism. They are responsible, the report says, for decisions taken in an arbitrary manner, based on local concerns but with no sense of any over-arching global effects.
Finally, the divisions in the Belgian political environment are also at fault. Operational decisions are taken at federal level, while it is regional ministers who are responsible for rules on the environment and noise. “There is no national policy for one of the most important economic sectors in Belgium,” the report argues, adding that the sector is also one with the most damaging effects.