Belgian State has to pay millions to residents in the vicinity of Runway 01/19 of Brussels Airport

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On 22 October, the Brussels Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of more than 300 residents living in the so-called Oostrand, the vicinity of runway 01/19 at Brussels Airport, who have complained of improper landings on runway 01 since February 2004.

A reading of the judgment shows that it concerns more than 300 inhabitants of the municipalities of Kraainem, Wezembeek-Oppem and Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, who complain about noise from planes flying overhead, complaints that have worsened since February 2004 and the distribution plan of then Minister of Mobility Bert Anciaux.

The court of appeal admits that the runway configuration allows for flights over very densely populated areas, at low altitudes, and thus noise during landings, especially because the runway is short.

The court states that the Belgian State “made mistakes in deciding on the preferential use of runway 02 (note: now called 01) on 28 February 2004” and by changing the wind standards in August 2003, making this short runway more used. According to the court, these decisions almost doubled the use of 02/20 for landings between 1997-2003 (8,876 per year) and 2004-2018 (15,759 per year).

In March 2017, the Court of Appeal had already established the fault of the Belgian State with regard to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights establishing the right to the protection of a healthy environment, for the period from 8 February 2004 until 31 December 2011.

Now, and in the same spirit, the Court of Appeal condemns the fault of the Belgian State for the subsequent period, namely from 1 January 2012 to 31 October 2018, by leaving the door open for new actions on the basis of evidence for the period after 31 October 2018 and up to today.

For these two periods, the Court ratifies this fault under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which enshrines the right to the protection of a healthy environment. The Court recognises a public health problem on the basis of the level of noise pollution suffered by residents which exceeds the noise thresholds set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Court also established that the damage suffered by residents during years of excessive air pollution must be repaired by awarding them significant damages (several million euros) on the basis of their location within the contours of noise.

On the strength of the success of their trial, the residents demand that the Belgian state restore their rights, otherwise new actions for compensation will be taken. Local residents are therefore waiting for the Belgian State to change its wind component instructions for the use of runways so as to no longer use runway 01 abusively.

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