Several residents groups objected to Dublin Airport’s expansion plans on the grounds that more flights would mean greater levels of air and noise pollution, stress on local infrastructure and increased traffic in the area. Portmarnock Community Association (PCA) established the UPROAR (United Portmarnock Residents Opposing Another Runway) community group in 2004 which picketed hearings conducted in 2006 by An Bord Pleanála, an independent statutory established to operate an open and impartial planning system. UPROAR members were dismayed by An Bord Pleanála’s 2007 decision to give the go-ahead to a new terminal and runway. Townlands affected by the planned new runway include Pickardstown, Millhead, Kilreesk and St. Margaret’s. In 2016 about 40 households were eligible for relocation grants as their homes would become uninhabitable due to close proximity to the new runway. Other residents were offered help from a sound insulation scheme which would reduce aircraft noise.
In March 2017 several homeowners near Dublin Airport said their lives had been ruined by the proposed new runway. One resident living just 500 meters from the new runway said that his family were effectively “living on a building site” as construction work had begun nearby, compounding the impact of ongoing airport operations: “My family and I can no longer live here, it is horrendous and I fear for the health implications of living so close to the runway. Even at the moment you can smell so much jet fuel, the trees are gone for miles and what’s happening recently is ruining our lives. My home is completely devalued.”
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and a group of individuals filed a lawsuit attempting to stop building of the new runway. The individuals asserted a variety of legal reasons for opposing airport expansion while FIE focused on environmental grounds, including the additional greenhouse gas emissions which would worsen climate change and its disastrous impacts. FIE claimed that the airport expansion was inconsistent with “an unenumerated personal constitutional right to an environment that is consistent with human dignity and well-being of citizens at large”. Litigants also challenged the time extension of planning permission that had been granted by Fingal County Council in 2007. The lawsuit to halt expansion of Dublin Airport was rejected by the High Court in February 2018, in spite of its recognition of the real and immediate risks posed by climate change, but FIE was pleased by the ground-breaking finding of a constitutional right to an environment that protests human dignity and well-being.
One of the individuals participating in the lawsuit was Jim Scully, a dairy and beef farmer set to lose his home, farm and likelihood to the new runway. He sought a judicial review alongside 21 other families, who had argued that the development was illegal and that Fingal County Council had failed to consider or address their concerns over the impacts on their homes and lands. Scully’s house and farm, 30 hectares he owns plus 24 hectares leased from the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) is located directly under the proposed flightpath. He is one of the homeowners offered a voluntary buy-out scheme by the DAA. Scully was offered the current market price for his home along with an additional 30 per cent of its value but nothing for the land or loss of his livelihood. He said that setting up a farming business on new land would be financially impossible. Teasgasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, supported Scully, estimating in 2016 that the cost of setting up a comparable new dairy enterprise stood conservatively at US$662,000.
In March 2018 Scully spoke of noise from current airport operations, as high as 90 decibels, making it impossible to hear people talking and his buildings shook when planes were taking off and landing. He also also mentioned toxic fumes that were not being monitored and people moving away: “Tracks of land, buildings and houses are black from plane fumes. Scores of people have left the area along where the DAA owns thousands of acres. Deserted houses are boarded up and parts of the area so far look like eerie ghost towns.” On 12th July 2018 Scully and others whose farms will become unviable because of the new runway project, some left with land areas as small as a couple of acres, protested at an information meeting held by DAA.
Local residents were also objecting to DAA’s lobbying to get conditions under which planning permission was granted overturned. One of these conditions was that no night lights would be installed. In October 2018 DAA reported that it was attempting to get what it called “onerous” conditions attached to planning permission overturned, namely the limitations of night flights and flights at the busiest time of day between 6am and 7am. If these conditions are overruled the airport expansion will have greater negative impacts including noise and light pollution on surrounding communities. The Airport Noise Regulation Bill, due to be published soon by the Department of Transport, seeks to apply an EU directive governing aircraft noise and pave the way for the DAA to appeal flight limits imposed in the original planning permission.