The Netherlands Government has gone back on plans to limit flight numbers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol after pushback from airlines and the European Commission.
The controversial “experimental regulation” would have seen a 60,000-flight reduction of the airport’s annual flight numbers to 440,000 a year, in response to concerns from residents about the noise and environmental impact of planes at the airport.
However, in a letter to the airport, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure Mark Harbers said a warning from the European Commission’s transport commissioner had led him to change the government’s position over concerns that it may go against the EU’s balanced approach rules.
Harbers said: “After the letter from the European Commission, the government has again considered whether the cassation appeal should be awaited before track 1 is implemented.
“With the European Commission’s position that continuing track 1, without following the balanced approach procedure, is not expected to be in line with European law, the Netherlands will also find itself isolated.”
Schiphol Airport said it is disappointed by the news as it removes the “clarity and certainty” provided to local residents by the regulations and called for movement on alternative options.
It said: “Moreover, according to Schiphol, falling back on ‘anticipatory enforcement’ leads to more uncertainty, including for the aviation sector itself. It is time that hindrance for local residents is noticeably reduced.
“The importance of a night closure of Schiphol is now becoming even more imminent. This also applies to the other measures in our eight-point plan, such as the ban on private flights and the banning of the noisiest aircraft.”
Meanwhile, the European Commission said it would continue to assess the compatibility of the proposed laws with EU law in case they were introduced after the Supreme Court ruled on the issue, though it noted the Dutch Government’s decision.
Most notably, the proposals were said to go against the EU’s Balanced Approach Regulations, which says that flight restrictions should be a last resort when attempting to reduce noise and only be used after a series of other steps have been taken.
Following the government’s decision, the commission said that while it supports intentions to address environmental and noise concerns, these need to be applied in line with EU law.
It said: “In particular, the Balanced Approach Regulation provides a set of tools and procedures allowing for member states to improve the noise environment around union airports and increase the quality of life of neighbouring citizens while ensuring a proportionate approach that also guarantees the effective functioning of union air transport systems.”