At Ostend Airport, air freight throughput leaped 20% in 2018 compared to tonnage handled a year before. However, the management’s optimism about further development is hampered by the uncertainty on the extension of the airport’s environmental permit, enabling night operations.
More imports in 2018
In 2018 Ostend-Bruges Flanders International Airport handled 28,000 tonnes, compared to 23,500 tonnes in 2017. The additional volume comes from higher imports of fruit and vegetables, more return cargo ex Ostend, more flights diverted from Liege Airport or Amsterdam Schiphol Airport due to saturation and more occasional touchdowns by Kalitta.
Spurred by the positive trend in 2018, the airport management expects even higher volumes in 2019.
However, the viper in the grass is in the fact that for years the airport has been a thorn in the side of some residents, united in a pressure group named ‘WILOO’ (Werkgroep Impact Luchthaven Oostende op zijn Omgeving/Working group on the impact of Ostend Airport on its environment). A development well known all across Europe where people tend to fly more often year after year and up their online purchases concurrently but who feel increasingly disturbed by aviation, demanding stiff night flight bans.
Amended permit revoked
In Ostend’s case, the group succeeded in having the request for an extension of the environmental permit annulled through an appeal launched at the Council of State. This court has the power to revoke decisions taken by political bodies, in this case the Council of the Province of West-Flanders and the Flemish minister for the Environment, Joke Schauvlieghe.
Back in 2015 the provincial Council had partially consented to an amendment of the environmental permit, which is valid till 2024. In order to secure the commercial viability of the airport, the airport management company Egis had requested the permission for 540 yearly night operations with a noise production up to a Quota Count (QC) of 37 (up to 108 decibel).
Even as this request was rejected by the provincial Council, the amendment granted 180-night operations up to QC 26 (up to 104.5 db). This decision had been endorsed by Ms Schauvlieghe. However, the Council of State annulled Ms Schauvlieghe’s decision arguing that she had disregarded a negative advice on this matter.
On the practical side this means that the airport has to fall back on its basic permit, which forbids night operations by aircraft having a noise over QC 12 (103 db, the noise production of a motor bike).
A final decision is expected this spring.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels