North Somerset Councillors met yesterday to confirm their decision of 10th February rejecting Bristol Airport application to expand. This ratification was needed following a legally required ‘cooling-off’ period as this decision was taken against the Council officers’ advice. One public statement was allowed and Hilary Burn, Chair of the PCAA, spoke on behalf of local parishes, communities and campaign groups. Councillor Steve Hogg again led the debate on the application and castigated opposition councillors for the weakness of their presentations. He also revealed that the Airport had sent a threatening letter to the Council.
This letter was received Tuesday 17th march, one the day before the ratification debate. Either the Airport couldn’t get its act together or, more likely, it wanted to try to intimidate councillors at the last minute. It offered some comment on the Councillors’ reasons for rejecting the application, ending with a thinly veiled threat:
‘We would remind the Council that examples, as set out in National Planning Guidance, where an award of costs may be made against local planning authorities, include failure to produce evidence to substantiate each reason for refusal on appeal and vague, generalised or inaccurate assertions about a proposal’s impact, which are unsupported by any objective analysis. Given this, we trust that the Council will fully consider and respond to each of the concerns we have identified above when finalising their reasons for refusal for the Application’.
Councillors have of course made an informed and calculated decision, fully aware of the legal framework within which they are working. This rather nasty little attempt to intimidate our democratic representatives is a threat to all our North Somerset communities. It was sent by a firm of lawyers called Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD). We wouldn’t bother to name them except that their publicity includes the following gush:
‘Our commitment to being a Responsible Business is at the heart of what we do. We take our responsibilities very seriously and care about the impact of our actions on our people, our local community and the environment. Building sustainable relationships through partnerships with charities, community projects and our own initiatives, we are determined to play a strong role in creating better places to live, work and do business.
‘We want our actions to have real social value impact, and so focus our activity on social mobility, empowerment and unlocking potential in the areas of Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship. At WBD we empower and encourage our people to get involved in a wide range of Responsible Business activities – and they really do.’
WBD obviously operate at the same grubby level of hypocritical hyperbole as the Airport and its owners, the Ontario Teacher Pension Plan.
The Airport will now be thinking about an appeal against the Council decision. It must think again. North Somerset communities have voiced their democratic view through the County Council, through its Members of Parliament and by giving direct voice to their feelings through support for the campaigns to stop Bristol Airport expansion.
Instead of launching an appeal, Bristol Airport should immediately withdraw its current Master Plan. A new Plan should show how, in an age of unsubsidised aviation and the climate emergency, it will achieve a steady state sustainable operation in lockstep with new technologies. It must substantially cut the carbon emissions created by client aviation companies, invest massively in public transport and environmental mitigation, scale down car parking, and promote public understanding of the responsible use of aviation.