Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Ceisteanna (286, 287)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

415 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport his views on the historic designation of massive red zones at Irish airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2723/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

As I have mentioned in previous replies to the House on this subject, the present red zones were formally established in 1968. The then Department of Transport and Power was originally responsible for proposing the establishment of the zones, which were approved and incorporated in the local authorities' development plans and development within those red zones is controlled by the local authorities through the Planning Acts.

I will describe for the Deputy precisely what the red zones are. International civil aviation operates under the 1944 Chicago Convention, which is administered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO. Annex 14 of the convention, which prescribes standards for aerodromes, recommends that certain pathways through the air on approaches to runways should be clear of obstacles at certain heights, depending on how far away they are from the runway. These are known as obstacle clearance surfaces and are imaginary slopes in the air extending away from the ends of runways. They were designed for the protection of aircraft taking off and landing as an aid to safe navigation. If those slopes in the air are, on a map, projected on to the ground, they form a trapezoid shape, with the narrow base at the end of the runway.

Those shapes have been coloured red on maps for ease of identification and have, therefore, been known as red zones. The present dimensions of the red zones were established in 1968 and were notified to the local authorities on whose land the State airports are situated. While the width of the red zones was the same as the projection onto the ground of the obstacle limitation surfaces, the length of the red zones was delineated by the officials of the then Department of Transport and Power at specific distances from the runway, which varied by runway orientation, by airport and by projected air traffic density. In delineating the length of the red zones in particular, the then Department sought to assist the local authorities to have regard to the dimension of public safety in the vicinity of the airports, that is, the safety of people on the ground, living or working underneath an approaching or departing aircraft. In Ireland, as elsewhere, these zones have been used as a basis for restricting development to limit the numbers of people on the ground who may be killed or injured by a crashing aircraft.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

416 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport his views on the current proposal to designate further massive public safety zones at Irish airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2724/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The proposal the Deputy is referring to is the recommendation in a report presented both to me and to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government by Environmental Resource Management, ERM. Obstacle clearance surfaces, which are based on the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, are designed to protect the safety of aircraft as they land and take off by ensuring that there are no obstacles in their way. Projection of these obstacle clearance surfaces on to maps to create so-called red zones have, for many years, informed the deliberations of the relevant planning authorities in Ireland as to the public safety implications of developments at or near airports.

Using the latest risk assessment techniques relating to public safety generally, however, the purpose of the study conducted by Environmental Resource Management, ERM, was to determine the most appropriate arrangements for minimising the risk to the public on the ground in the event of an aircraft accident at Ireland's principal airports. That report, currently being considered by the Ministers for Transport and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, concludes that zones of a different size and shape to the red zones are more appropriate for the protection of the public on the ground. It would not be appropriate for me to give my views on the recommendations of the report until my consideration of it is complete.