The Committee considered a request from The George Best Belfast City Airport (GBBCA) in regard to bird strike management at Victoria Park.
The Members were advised that the control of birds in the flight path to the airport was a requirement of the airport’s Civil Aviation Authority licence. In line with GBBCA’s national aerodrome license requirements and associated guidance material presented in CAP772: Wildlife Hazard Management at Aerodromes, and that the airport was required to identify sources of risk and to reduce and maintain any risk to an acceptable level in compliance with the Civil Aviation Authority licensing requirements.
The Members were reminded that, in January 2021, the airport had removed 12 old rook nests and undertook structural pruning of trees and ivy at Victoria Park. These works had been required as a result of the establishment of a rookery at Victoria Park with an increased frequency of rook occurrence around the airport.
The Director of Neighbourhood Services advised that, following the aforementioned works, rook nests and total rook numbers had been monitored from 28th February to 15th April 2021. This had demonstrated that nest building had lowered by 35% with reductions in both average flock size, down from 27 to 14, and the maximum flock size from 30 to 17.
The Members noted that, as suitable nesting habitat was prevalent throughout the park, the airport remained concerned that there might be potential for the rookery to re-establish and expand unless further habitat modifications were implemented. As a result of this, GBBCA were seeking to carry out continued remedial actions which would involve the removal of old nests, outside of the breeding season, and selective pruning of branching forks and other potential anchor points in trees to further inhibit nest building attempts in 2022. In addition, the airport also wished to remove circa 4 pines along the eastern edge of the rookery and to reduce the shelter provided to nesting trees behind. Permission to remove these pines had been granted under the previous licence but had not been actioned at the time. If required, the Airport also wished to continue to reduce any shelter provided by ivy at the site.
The Committee was advised that, if approved, the GBBCA would appoint a suitable contractor with previous experience to undertake the works. In addition, officers would review the submitted risk assessment and insurance certificates in line with procedure and work with Legal Services to issue the requested licence. The licence would include relevant conditions to ensure that the airport had confirmed that all works were permissible and that any required licences were in place to permit the works to take place within the required timescales. The licence would also place an onus on the airport to ensure that health and safety measures were implemented, essential signage was assembled, one-way systems were established where necessary, and any COVID specific mitigations were in place.
The Committee was further advised that in 2021 GBBCA had recorded a goose laying and hatching a clutch of eggs in June. The current annual greylag goose Licence Agreement between the Council and GBBCA extended to the end of May and the airport was requesting that this be extended to the end of June to address any future late laying. It was highlighted that this would align the Council’s legal agreement with the DAER and NIEA licence.
The Members considered this request and felt that with the other measures in place this was unnecessary and therefore did not accede to the request from the George Best City Airport to extend their annual licence for managing greylag goose eggs to the end of June.
The Committee agreed the request from George Best Belfast City Airport to permit access under licence to Victoria Park to facilitate the removal of old rook nests by Mid-January 2022 and to carry out the necessary thinning of sheltering pines, structural pruning of preferred nesting trees and to reduce shelter from ivy.
The Committee noted:
· that the decision to grant permission was subject to a legal agreement that would be developed by the Council’s Legal Services Department which would ensure that any works were permissible, and the required NIEA
· licence and consents were in place; and
· that the required licence would be progressed under the Director’s delegated authority.
It was further agreed that representative from the Belfast City Airport be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee to discuss issues in regard to noise and flight paths and that in the interim they be reminded that the Council had previously requested that the Airport publish and promote its ‘Bird Control for Air Safety in Belfast Report’ via its own media channels to help inform the public in regard to the required actions and measures.