Tougher aircraft noise restrictions begin tonight

Summary

Following two 60-day delays because of a conflict-of-interest complaint, the Brussels government will start collecting fines for breaches of new regulations governing aircraft noise

Route open for negotiations

The government of the Brussels-Capital Region will begin applying its new restrictions on aircraft noise tonight, as a second conflict of interest pause called by the Flemish region reaches its 60-day deadline.

The new regulations include extending night-time noise limits to 7.00 in some fly zones over Brussels; they used to end at 6.00. It also limits planes to 80 decibels in certain zones, which affects 747s, mostly used for freight.

However, while Brussels will issue fines to airlines for excessive noise, they will not insist on payment for at least 18 months, the government said. That leaves federal mobility minister François Bellot the time he needs to negotiate a solution.

Flanders had called a conflict of interest because the noise limits applied by Brussels affects air traffic departing from Brussels Airport, which is located in Zaventem, Flemish Brabant. The regulations will push more aircraft to take-off and land using routes over Flanders.

Under federal law, one region may call a halt to a measure passed by another if its interests are being affected, applying a 60-day halt to proceedings. According to Brussels environment minister Céline Fremault, they are simply applying the law according to the governing agreement made when the government of minister-president Rudi Vervoort came into office.

At the same time, the government is leaving the door open for a negotiated settlement with Flanders, a spokesperson said. Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois welcomed the decision by Brussels to “press the pause button” in terms of collecting fines, but said that he regretted the legal uncertainty brought about by the decision to issue fines. 

The decision to create a framework for discussion is “an occasion to work towards a constructive solution” to the problem, Bourgeois said. He called on minister Bellot to come forward with proposals.

Photo: Tom D’Haenens/Brussels Airport

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