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Appeal against airport runway project dismissed 20 July 2007

An appeal against planning approval for the runway extension scheme at Isle of Man Airport has been dismissed following recommendation from an independent Planning Inspector.

Acting Deputy Minister for Local Government and the Environment, Dudley Butt MLC, accepted the Inspector’s recommendation that the planning be allowed to proceed, subject to conditions being met.

The main aspect of the project involves extending the airfield at Ronaldsway by constructing a promontory into the sea at the eastern end of the main runway, in order to accommodate longer runway end safety areas (RESAs), which would meet the new recommended international safety standards. It would also allow for the runway to be resurfaced and strengthened, providing the opportunity for enhanced reliability and increased all-weather capability of aircraft.

There was one objection to the planning approval. The appellants objected to the building of a promontory, claiming that feasibility studies into alternative proposals were unsatisfactory and that enough information about them had not been released. They also claimed the cost of extending the main runway was financially unsound and that night-time construction would disturb nearby residents.

However, the Planning Inspector, Graham Self, said that, for the alternative options considered, the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages. Furthermore, it was accepted that, with the new recommended safety standards likely to become mandatory, it is ‘prudent for the Airport to be taking steps to achieve the recommended [RESA] dimensions’.

The Planning Inspector said the commercial reasons behind the proposal were also important. ‘The recommended RESA dimensions could be achieved simply by declaring shorter runway lengths,’ his report states. ‘However, the available evidence indicates that this option would have considerable future disbenefits for the Isle of Man, because it would limit the types of aircraft which could use the airport in future, or would limit payloads, and would be likely to cause airlines to choose not to operate routes to the Island.’

Whilst the inspector said the construction of a promontory would have a significant adverse impact on marine ecology, he considered that the need to improve public safety and to maintain the Airport’s role as a principal gateway to the Island ‘constitutes a national need sufficient to override the need to protect the environment’.

In light of the environmental concerns, the Inspector attached several conditions relating to the works and the proposed Environmental Management Plan, which must be adhered to before the start of any works to implement the development.

Airport Director Ann Reynolds said:

‘The main driver of the Airport Runway project has always been safety, to meet International and CAA safety standards. We need to reduce the risks that existing routes become runway performance critical and therefore uncompetitive, limiting the choice of aircraft and airline operators, and to be able to respond to new market opportunities.
‘Obviously, we are pleased that the appeal has been dismissed and we are now focusing our efforts on developing the project. We will carefully consider the conditions imposed on the planning approval to ensure that we meet them as and when they arise, and start the preparations needed to be in place to begin the work with all the interested parties.’

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