In the run up the General Election on Thursday 12th December the Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAEx) campaign has contacted parliamentary candidates for North Somerset and Weston to seek §their views on Bristol Airport’s proposed expansion.
Bristol Airport wants to increase passenger numbers to 12 million a year by 2025, a move that has been rigorously opposed by community, environmental and climate change protest groups, health professionals, local residents as well as parish, town and county councils.
All candidates for North Somerset (NS) and Weston have considerable reservations about the expansion plans.
Phil Neve (Green Party, NS) has been an active anti-expansion campaigner since the Airport submitted its plans to North Somerset Council in December 2018. ‘This is not a finely balanced issue’ he states, ‘Bristol Airport expansion, with its increase in pollution, thousands more vehicles onto already congested roads, destruction of greenbelt, changes to night flying and increased noise over much of North Somerset, would be a huge step in the wrong direction’.
Ashley Cartman (Liberal Democrats, NS) will oppose expansion until the climate emergency is under control. He said: ‘The infrastructure around the airport insufficient to support the additional traffic. In particular the public transport options are woefully inadequate. Every time I am briefed I become more convinced expansion is a bad idea.’
Dr Hannah Young (Labour, NS) stated that she is ‘completely opposed to Bristol Airport. On the national question, it has recently been indicated by John McDonnell that a Labour government would oppose airport expansion in the South East of England and other regional plans would be examined on a case-by-case basis against climate change criteria’.
Dr Fox (Conservative, NS) said that the previous government was broadly in favour of regional airport expansion. However, he continued, ‘the expansion of Bristol airport could not go ahead to the extent planned without substantial investment and improvements to our local infrastructure.’
Dr Fox also acknowledged the deeply serious issues relating to aircraft noise, the potential increase in night flights, environmental pollution and the acute local problem of insufficient parking and the consequent widespread abuse of the Green Belt and the disruption to local villages.
He emphasised that ‘While North Somerset Council is yet to consider the planning application, if the above issues are not properly addressed, then I have already indicated to the Secretary of State that I will want to see the application called in’.
Phil Neve said that if there is a Conservative government majority in place following the election, and the Bristol application is called in, the decision may well be made just to fit in with party policy, irrespective of the wishes of local people or of any dispassionate analysis of the true consequences. Taking a decision that will have such huge consequences away from North Somerset would be the opposite of democracy.’
‘Many areas including Clevedon, Nailsea, Tickenham, and Portishead, previously unaffected, will start to feel the effects that Wrington, Downside and others already suffer. The airport has not fulfilled its obligations under the last expansion approval, the economic and employment case has been comprehensively shown to be highly questionable and the increased emissions will completely wipe out the region’s carbon reductions to date.’
Patrick Keating (Lib Dem, Weston) sits on the Planning & Regulatory Committee at North Somerset Council so could not pre-determine the application. He stated that ‘the airport will have a serious challenge on their hands seeking an expansion when there is so much focus on reducing emissions, and I think there are many further questions to be answered around the local infrastructure, nuisance parking and transport questions. The Liberal Democrats will have a moratorium on the building of new runways. We will tax people who fly more frequently, including myself and need to incentivise airlines to use cleaner fuels. It’s important to offer alternatives. The train service isn’t quite good enough.’
Tim Taylor (Labour, Weston) said: ‘I’ve lived here for 18 years. It’s nice to have Bristol Airport nearby. But there’s something bigger going on now. Expanding Bristol Airport isn’t a good idea. Planes are flying every day and belching out emissions. It’s no good doing it in isolation so everyone just drives to Heathrow.’
Suneil Basu (Green, Weston) is emphatic that: ‘We need to add fuel tax to aviation – an instant end to cheap flights. It’s obscene I can fly to Edinburgh for half the price of a train ticket. I’m against any new runways in Britain.’
John Penrose (Conservative, Weston) replies that: ‘Over the last nine months, every single parish council and many local residents have asked me to ask that the Secretary of State calls the application in for central determination, rather than leaving it to the Council. Given the strength and breadth of these concerns, I have asked the Secretary of State to call the application in. It’s very rare for an MP to call in a decision. It’s only the third time I have. We need to be careful about loading too much expectation on Bristol Airport. The huge growth in aviation isn’t in this country, it’s in Africa and southeast Asia. We need an international answer to this. In the meantime, I should probably avoid interfering further in what is legally a Council decision before they’ve even taken it!’
Notes for Editors
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SBAEx contacted all parliamentary candidates during the week commencing 25th November North Somerset and this release includes responses to 2nd December