In early August pollsters commissioned by Bristol Airport phoned four hundred residents of Weston-super-Mare about their attitudes to Airport expansion. This snapshot found that 59% of Weston’s citizens supported expansion. (1) Does this truly represent public sentiment in Weston? It’s worth opening the lid on this can of worms.
The poll consisted of two questions. The first simply asked if residents were aware that Bristol Airport had submitted a planning application. The second question was unbelievably manipulative:
‘Bristol airport plans to increase its capacity without requiring an additional runway, a runway extension, or a new terminal. Instead, they will improve existing facilities. To what extent do you support or oppose Bristol Airport increasing its passenger capacity in this way?’
To understand just how skewed the question is one only has to re-phrase it:
‘Bristol airport plans to increase its capacity without regard for the impact on human health and wellbeing through increased aviation emissions, more traffic pollution and congestion, greater noise from aviation traffic (especially additional night flights) and parking sprawl across the Green Belt. To what extent do you support or oppose Bristol Airport increasing its passenger capacity with these consequences?’
ComRes, the pollsters, should be ashamed for permitting such a biased question, straight from a propaganda handbook in the Airport press office.
Does this matter in the grand scheme of things? Well, yes, since people take polls at face value including key politicians. Weston Mayor Mark Canniford, for example, went on record to say ‘this will never be an easy decision as the expansion is very controversial to many, but the survey seems to show broad support for Bristol Airport and their future plans’. (2) Weston Town Council are meeting tomorrow (Monday 18th November) to take a position on the Airport expansion plans.
The Airport has a track record in publishing fake news in the guise of polls as we have already pointed out.(3 & 4) However, the poll that matters shows an increasing number of people responding to the North Somerset planning website which to date has received over 5000 comments with around 68% opposed to expansion. This despite a massive mail-out by the Airport to rustle up ‘support’ from employees, suppliers and its customer database (who presumably didn’t sign up for political lobbying) and which, in the days that followed, elicited just 38 comments from the population of Weston. (5)
Finally, we should recognise when the press has sufficient concern and integrity to probe beneath the surface rather than regurgitate Airport propaganda. Step up the Bristol Post which, earlier this year ago, decided to ask, ‘What do people really think about the plans to expand the Airport?’. (6) The results offered a snapshot of opinion in the early days of the planning debate:
– 70% did not believe it would benefit the local economy- 92% did not feel the need to fly to more destinations
– 94% felt that expansion in other regions was not a reason from Bristol to expand
– 91% said expansion should not take place because of the climate emergency
– 63 % said that infrastructure was inadequate
– 95% did not want further noise pollution
– just 5% felt expansion would be OK if the transport access issues were sorted out
Since publication of that article back in January the negative impact of any Airport expansion is much widely understood by the public. Which is why democratic bodies across the region are taking public positions against Airport expansion.
Redcently, for example, Weston Town Council has revoked its early position supporting expansion ‘in the light of information now available’ and now objects (Council Meeting of 10 Nov 19).
Other reflections of public opinion include the rapidly increasing number of parish councils across the region voting to recognise the Climate Crisis and oppose Airport expansion. East Harptree adopted this position following a poll of local residents showing 92% were against Airport expansion (poll sample 153 of 600 residents) (7). Many more are taking up similar policies.
Is it any wonder that the mendacious Airport is desperate to spread fake news about public sentiment?
(5) a. extracted from analysis of comment on North Somerset planning website:
(7) contact SBAEx@gmail.com for further detail