Dublin Airport cap: Businesses in west call for greater use of regional airports before passenger limit increased in capital

Numerous objections to proposed increase in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport filed with planning authorities

Businesses in the west of Ireland have called for greater use of regional airports before a passenger cap in Dublin is increased.

In its submission to planning officials regarding plans by the DAA to lift the current limit from 32 million to 40 million annual passengers in the capital, Limerick Chamber said policy should focus on alternative locations.

“The State should support underutilised state-owned airports to grow and fully achieve their potential ahead of increasing passenger numbers at Dublin Airport,” said the organisation that represents over 400 businesses in the Midwest from local hospitality companies to large multinational corporations.

It pointed to “significant underutilised capacity” within State-owned regional airports, which could potentially relieve pressure on Dublin and the infrastructure surrounding it.


“Dublin Airport now serves close to 85 per cent of the country’s airport traffic and this is not proportionally aligned with the population distribution across the country,” it said, adding that passengers were being “forced” to use Dublin even when closer, regional airports were potentially available.

Numerous objections to a proposed increase in passenger numbers at Dublin Airport have been filed with planning authorities, although representatives of the airline and business worlds have expressed strong support.

Monday is the deadline for observations on detailed infrastructural development plans laid out by airport management, including efforts to increase annual passenger numbers.

That ambition has provoked particular unease in surrounding communities, already perturbed by aircraft noise and health concerns. For many, a 25 per cent increase in passenger volumes would be a step too far, putting economic considerations ahead of community.

“We are an island that needs strong transport connections,” noted Ailbhe Finegan, a resident of Clongriffin in north county Dublin who was among those “strongly opposed” to plans by DAA, the airport operator.

“We are also an island where children live and need to sleep and play. It is untenable to fly the proposed volume of passengers from one airport in Dublin without making many surrounding residential areas uninhabitable.”

There were almost 200 submissions by Monday morning, as the window for public submissions to Fingal County Council approached its deadline.

While the planning application is complex, including a wide variety of development objectives, it is the proposed increase in passenger numbers and associated flight activity that has captured the public attention.

The nearby Ballyboughal Community Council, which had been affected by contentious flight paths last year following the opening of the new North Runway, objected to there being over 7,000 pages of accompanying technical information, with insufficient time afforded to the public to process it.

“There is a severe lack of public consultation with no clinics or leaflet drops explaining the monumental amount of technical material,” said its spokesman David Walton in a near 50-page submission.

Mr Walton said the current high level of flights coming into the country via the Dublin hub “puts an unfair burden on the residents of Fingal to absorb all of the downsides including noise pollution, air pollution and the known negative medical impacts of excessive exposure to aircraft noise, as well as surface traffic congestion”.

Concerns contained in the dozens of submissions included noise and air pollution, traffic, the lack of Metro North development to ferry passengers to and from the facility and the belief it was not supported by planning policy.

Joe Newman, an independent councillor in the sprawling nearby suburb of Swords, said an increase in flights would put pressure on the area’s greenbelt adjacent to the Ridgewood housing estate, posing a potentially “detrimental effect” on residents’ health.

“Residents on Cook’s Road are already moving out of the area because of the noise from the north runway,” he wrote.

Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe said the move would see an unacceptable increase in greenhouse emissions.

“During a climate emergency it is an act of folly to propose expanding airport passenger numbers by 25 per cent,” he submitted.

“The applicant fails to demonstrate that the proposal represents sustainable development or will protect public health.”

However, there was strong support from a number of organisations. The trade-orientated Ireland-US Council said it was “greatly encouraged” by growth in airline traffic between Ireland and American cities.

“It has also had the extra advantage of bringing many people to Ireland for business and vacations – people who might not otherwise have come here,” it said.

Airlines For America, the industry body, said a cap increase was necessary for continuing growth in demand for US-Ireland services.

It said the number of passengers travelling between the two countries grew by 76 per cent between 2013 and 2023, or at an average annual growth rate of 5.8 per cent.

“US and other carriers operating routes between the United States and Ireland cannot cater to this increased demand unless Fingal County Council raises the current cap.”

The DAA’s comprehensive plans also include the construction of new pier buildings, a remote plane apron, and the provision of hundreds of new car parking spaces.

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Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times