Bristol Airport awaits decision on expansion as inquiry draws to a close
The 36-day public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s proposal to expand from 10 to 12 mppa has ended, with a decision by the planning inspectors expected early next year. The inquiry is into the appeal by the airport of the rejection in February 2020, by North Somerset Council, of the growth plans; councillors refused the planning permission by 18 votes to seven. The authority’s barrister, Reuben Taylor, said allowing millions more passengers a year to fly from Bristol airport would affect thousands more local people with significant impacts, as well as a negative effect on climate change and the green belt. Mr Taylor said the scheme was unacceptable and unlawful and urged the inspectors to make it clear to airport operators that they do not have a licence to expand. He said the airport “is a company that puts the pursuit of profit before the wellbeing of the people its operations affect.” As well as being refused by North Somerset Council, the expansion has been opposed by Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority and numerous parish councils. There will be a decision letter eventually, after which there is no further right of appeal – other than a judicial review into the process.
Bristol Airport awaits decision on expansion as inquiry draws to a close
By Stephen Sumner (North Somerset Times)
October 12, 2021
The public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s expansion proposal has drawn to a close, with a decision expected early next year.
The inquiry began in July as the airport is hoping to overturn North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse its expansion plans.
Bristol Airport branded the council “hostile” to the firm and its expansion bid after claims it put profit before residents’ wellbeing.
The authority’s barrister, Reuben Taylor, said allowing millions more passengers a year to pass through the transport hub would affect thousands more local people with significant impacts on climate change and the green belt.
In closing submissions to a 36-day public inquiry he said the scheme was unacceptable and unlawful and urged the planning inspectors to send a message to airport operators that they do not have a licence to expand.
Representing Bristol Airport Ltd (BAL), Michael Humphries refuted the council’s “unfair” allegations and said the expansion – raising the cap from 10million to 12million annual passengers – was driven by demand for flights and would bring jobs and cash to the region.
The firm lodged an appeal after North Somerset councillors refused planning permission for the expansion by 18 votes to seven last year.
Attacking BAL as “self-important” and “close-minded”, Mr Taylor told the final day of the inquiry on October 8: “For all the warm words it puts into print, this inquiry has revealed that BAL is a company that puts the pursuit of profit before the wellbeing of the people its operations affect.
“We are in a new world now, a world where a 1990s type approach to airport expansion no longer has weight; a world where responsible growth is required by government as a condition of expansion.”
He added: “It is time to send a message to airport operators like BAL who consider themselves to have a licence to grow. They do not.
“The small economic benefit which the proposed development would deliver just £10million a year doesn’t come close to justify the sleepless nights for thousands living around the airport or the harm to health and quality of life that would be visited on them.
“This is the wrong development proposed in the wrong location proposed at the wrong time.
“It would be unlawful to grant planning permission for the proposed development and it is in any event a scheme which is entirely unacceptable. On behalf of North Somerset Council we ask you to refuse planning permission.”
As well as being refused by North Somerset Council, the expansion has been opposed by Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority and numerous parish councils.
Mr Humphries said the expansion was driven by demand from millions of people who want to fly and “nothing could be further from the truth” than the council’s “unfair” claim it put profits before people’s wellbeing.
He told the inquiry: “Bristol Airport is a regional airport that is grounded in its local and wider communities. It’s absolutely focused on sharing the benefits of growth and appropriately mitigating its effects.
“These unfair allegations are firmly rejected. What they reveal is interesting.
“Such serious allegations against an applicant can only be made under instruction. The allegations reveal that members are not only hostile to the application, but hostile to the applicant itself.”
The arguments will be weighed up by the panel of inspectors Philip Ware, Claire Searson and Dominic Young.
They will then issue a decision letter with their conclusions and reasons for allowing or dismissing the appeal, as appropriate.
Once the appeal has been decided there is no further right of appeal. The decision can only be challenged in a court of law by requesting a judicial review.
There will be further hearings next week to consider BAL’s application to compulsorily purchase land linked to the expansion.
and from New Civil Engineer:
Legal battles have marred expansion plans at Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Stansted Airport in the last year alone.
In its recently-published Transport Decarbonisation Plan, the government committed itself to achieving net zero within the aviation sector.
While the majority of pledges around aviation centre on developments in hydrogen planes and cleaner fuels, the Jet Zero document published alongside the Transport Decarbonisation Plan does make mention of airport expansions.
In fact, in the appendix it states that “expansion of any airport must meet its climate change obligations to be able to proceed”.
It adds: “The industry’s need to rebuild from a lower base is likely to mean that plans for airport expansion will be slower to come forward.”
However, it stops short of committing to the CCC’s advice that any airport expansion should be offset by reducing flights elsewhere.
West of England leaders to formally oppose expansion of Bristol Airport
Leaders of the west region (Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) and North Somerset) are expected to change their minds, and instead of backing expansion of Bristol airport, now oppose it. Metro mayor Dan Norris is tabling a motion at a special meeting on 21st September of the West of England Combined Authority’s (Weca’s) joint committee, which he leads, that would scrap its previous endorsement of the plans. The motion could be carried by a majority vote of the 5 members, so the motion will be carried if Mr Norris (Bristol) and Cllrs Guy (B&NES) and Davies (North Somerset) support it as expected. Cllr Guy said: “Airport expansion is fundamentally incompatible with local councils’ commitment to tackling the climate emergency.” Mr Norris’s motion includes the statements that: There is a climate and biodiversity emergency … The West of England has ambition net zero targets for 2030 …The proposed expansion of Bristol Airport is one of the biggest carbon decisions in the region for the coming decade. And “The Joint Committee resolves: To oppose the latest plans to expand Bristol Airport.”
Start of Inquiry into refusal by North Somerset Council of Bristol Airport plans to expand by 2mppa
The public inquiry into Bristol Airport’s expansion proposal began on 20th July with the airport hoping to overturn North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse the expansion plans in February 2020. The inquiry is overseen by the Planning Inspectorate, and is scheduled to run until mid-October with three independent inspectors appointed to consider the airport’s appeal. The airport wants to be allowed to have an extra 2 million annual passengers, from 10 million to 12 million. In its recently-published Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP), the DfT committed itself to achieving net zero within the aviation sector by 2050. Allowing airport expansion scheme is not going to help with that – quite the reverse. The worry is that, though the various expansion schemes for Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Leeds Bradford and Southampton – taken separately – look relatively small, collectively (and including Heathrow) the increase in carbon would be huge. The recent TDP does not follow the recommendation from its official advisors, the CCC, that any airport expansion should be offset by reducing flights elsewhere.
Bristol Airport expansion (for 2 mppa more) public inquiry to will start on July 20th, for 10 weeks
The expansion plans would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million a year. The public inquiry into the expansion plans is due to start on July 20 and last 10 weeks. The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council last year to reject its expansion plans. Bristol City Council has also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal. The inquiry will be held in person and online, via Teams, though requests had been made for it to be online only, due to Covid. Campaigners say any expansion of the airport would lead to higher carbon emissions, congested roads and more plane noise. A number of campaign groups including the Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) , the Parish Councils Airport Association and Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE) are all set to give evidence at the inquiry. The Planning Inspectorate team will be led by Philip Ware.
Bristol Airport expansion plans rejected by North Somerset council by 18-7
North Somerset Council’s Planning & Regulatory Committee has gone against the advice of their own planning officers and have refused permission for Bristol Airport to expand. It has been a “David versus Goliath” battle of local campaigners against the airport, (owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan). The airport wanted to expand from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year, with large carpark and other building. The opposition to the plans was huge, on ground of carbon emissions, as well as noise and general local damage. There were almost 9,000 objections sent in by members of the public, against 2,400 in favour. Councillors voted 18-7 against the plans, with one abstention. Councillors were persuaded that paltry economic benefits to the airport and airlines were far outweighed by the environmental harm. There would be large land take for the parking, and the extra carbon emissions would make targets of carbon neutrality for the area unachievable. Because the councillors went against the officers’ recommendations, the decision will return to the same committee to be ratified. If the decision is ratified, the applicant has six months to lodge an appeal, which would be heard at a public inquiry.