Amanda CameronLocal democracy reporter
05:00, 22 FEB 2019
(Image: Steve Roberts)
Bristol Airport should be stopped from expanding to help North Somerset achieve its new ambition of going carbon neutral by 2030, the council heard.
North Somerset Council unanimously voted to recognise a “serious global climate challenge emergency” and to take steps to address it on Tuesday (February 19).
It resolved to determine how North Somerset could become carbon neutral by 2030 and to seek government funding for the actions identified.
During the debate, Pill councillor Donald Davies suggested the council could “easily” reject an application from Bristol Airport to boost passenger numbers to 12 million by 2026.
But Conservative members of the administration took issue with the logic of the proposal and accused the Independent councillor of political point-scoring.
Cllr Davies had pointed out that the council’s response to the airport will have an enormous impact on carbon emissions in North Somerset.
“We could quite easily say it’s big enough as it is to accommodate local need therefore we’re not going to let you expand,” he said.
“Airports are the biggest polluters and generators of carbon in this whole area.
“So we could say no to the airport.”
Cllr Davies’ speech was met with long, loud applause from a large group of environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion Weston-super-Mare who were in the public gallery.
Earlier in the debate, a plaintive cry from the gallery interrupting council leader Nigel Ashton’s praise for the council’s record on reducing carbon emissions pleaded: “Don’t even consider expanding Bristol Airport, please.
Cllr Ashton did not respond to the interjection.
But Conservative councillor for Winford Nick Wilton argued that stopping the airport expansion would simply mean more people would drive further to catch flights for their holidays.
Referring to Cllr Davies’ comments, he said: “It’s tempting, people cheer when you say ‘let’s stop the expansion of Bristol International Airport’.
“But until you deliver cultural change – namely the great British public doesn’t want to travel somewhere sunny for their holidays – then those people are then going to have to travel further on our crowded motorway network to reach Heathrow Airport or Gatwick Airport.”
Fellow Conservative Peter Burden, councillor for Portishead South, asserted the extra vehicle use would produce as much carbon as the flights prevented from Bristol.
North Somerset Council is consulting on the airport’s plans to increase its capacity to 12 million passengers a year by 2026.
The proposals, submitted to the council at the end of last year, include surface level parking and an extra multi-storey car park.
Bristol Airport claims the expansion will boost the region’s economy by £1.4billion over the next decade and create more than 1,000 jobs.
Its masterplan says there could be 20 million passengers a year by the mid-2040s.