South Belfast residents opposed to the expansion of Belfast City Airport have expressed “caution” over the environment minister’s plans to modify a planning agreement with the airport that could see take off and landing times changed.

The current agreement restricts the number of aircraft movements at the airport to 48,000 planes each year, with a curfew between midnight and 6.30am.

However, environment minister Alex Attwood announced a public consultation on Friday (September 30) to modify the agreement. Despite the minister pledging to “protect the quality of life for local residents,” Liz Fawcett of Belfast City Airport Watch said locals were cautious.

“The airport’s own figures show the number of people seriously affected by aircraft noise now stands at more than 11,000,” she said.

“This is a crazy situation when we have a perfectly good international airport just 30 minutes from the centre of Belfast which affects relatively few residents.”

The minister said his objective was achieving a “fair, effective and enforceable” noise management system.

A spokesperson for the airport said it would continue to work closely with the Department of the Environment.

“That will involve agreeing a noise contour and engaging in a process to modify our existing planning agreement.

“We are one of the most tightly constrained airports in Ireland and Britain, and it is important this issue is resolved.”

A decision is expected to be issued in summer 2012.