Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet eases Songshan Airport rules

WINGS CLIPPED? Most politicians agrees that buildings around the airport could be increased in height, but some were concerned about the viability of cross-strait flights

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government yesterday relaxed a limit on the height of buildings within a 3km radius of the runway of Taipei's Songshan Airport from a maximum of 60m to 90m.

The new dispensation will allow structures to grow by about 10 stories and is expected to boost real estate prices.

"[The relaxation] will not only improve the urban landscape and living environment in the 1,198 hectares around the airport, but also facilitate the development of Taipei City," Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Restrictions have been in place in the area surrounding the airport, which services domestic flights and also serves as a base for certain air force units, since 1974.


In addition to the height limits, no buildings are allowed to be built within 150m of either side of the runway, or within 60m of either of the runway's two ends.

The maximum permissible height of buildings located within a radius of between 3km and 6km is 600m.

"Easing the restrictions will not influence aviation safety. An impact assessment has been conducted and flight tests were also undertaken before the recommendation was made [to the Cabinet]," said Billy Chang (張國政), director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).

"Aircraft, freight volumes, flight patterns, emergency response measures and the operations of the airport will all remain unchanged," he said.

Only helicopters will be affected, Billy Chang said, as they will have to increase the height of their approach by 30m. He said tests conducted on Monday showed this "would not be a problem."

The Mott MacDonald Group, an engineering, management and development consultancy registered in England, was commissioned by the CAA in May to conduct a feasibility study on the new regulations. In September, the company concluded the new dispensation would be workable.

The area affected is bounded by the Nangang Railway Station in the east and Jiancheng Circle on Nanjing W Rd in the west, and by Zhongxiao E Rd in the south and Jinzhou Street in the north, a CAA official said.

Some have raised concerns that the new dispensation would disqualify the airport from handling cross-strait flights, as large aircraft would no longer be able to land.

Billy Chang denied this, saying that as aircraft were able to take off from Kinmen Airport and land at Songshan Airport, there would be no problem with flights from Xiamen City.

He said it was up to the government to decide which airports would handle cross-strait flights, but that only Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Kaohsiung Airport were so far under consideration.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said that while he supported the relaxation of real estate restrictions, Taipei Songshan Airport was not suited to handle cross-strait flights.

Hsieh said Taoyuan International Airport would be a better choice.

He also said that Taipei Songshan Airport was not necessarily more convenient than the high speed rail system, especially for those who do not live in the vicinity of the aiport.

Hsieh said the Cabinet's decision was bound to boost urban development and drive up property values in the area of the airport.

"It was part of my platform when I ran for Taipei mayor last year, but this was harshly criticized by my rival. I'm glad that things have cooled down a little bit because it is the right way to go," he said.

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