Controversy as Lisbon airport announces nighttime closure for runway expansion

A plan to create two rapid-exit taxiways at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport has run headlong into controversy.

Environmentalists say the exits imply ‘expansion works’, which by law require an environmental impact study (EIA).

Association Zero’s president Francisco Ferreira claims the ‘real scandal’ is that the works will clear the way for the busy airport to handle a further 10 million passengers per year (ie increasing from 30 million to 40 million).

ANA airports authority hasn’t addressed this point. A source has simply told reporters the new exits will cut down on CO2 emissions – by reducing the distance planes have to taxi – and increase aircraft ‘circulation fluidity’.

The work is due to start on January 6, and run till June. It will take place at night, which means the complex will effectively shut down between 11.30pm to 6am.

Low-cost operator easyJet says the schedule has forced it to drop its Lisbon-Lille route during the time period.

ZERO has welcomed the ‘environmental’ advantage of the airport closure, but it is adamant ANA and the government are pulling a fast one.

This has led to quite an outburst from Infrastructures minister Pedro Nunes Santos, who let rip today saying: “We have no intention of evading anything.Whatever requires an EIA will get one. What doesn’t won’t. No one is pulling a fast one. We want to safeguard the environment, the quality of life of our cities as much or even more than these associations”, he stressed. “One cannot assume that those in power want the worst; that they want to make investments and are not concerned with the environment. That’s just not true. We are every bit as concerned with the environment as these associations, we just have different visions…”

Nunes Santos went on: “Zero is concerned? I am too. But there is one thing I want as well: for the country to grow and create employment, for us all to have good lives and a country that produces wealth”.

“We need to carry out investments that have been programmed”, he added. “Whether they’re at Montijo or Humberto Delgado…”

As ministerial statements go, it bordered on exasperation.

Zero meantime has told reporters it is monitoring flight movements in and out of Lisbon, as well as noise levels – and over the last seven nights (between midnight and 6am), there have been 102 movements despite only 74 being ‘scheduled’.

The 102 flight movements are 11 more than the 91 permitted per week, the association says.

It’s unclear where this latest controversy is heading, but ZERO shows little sign of backing down.

The association also claims ANA is flouting noise level limits and should be producing a Noise Plan (Plano do Ruido).

Said Ferreira: “We need a Noise Plan for current circumstances because noise levels during the day and night are being seriously exceeded”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com