Summer 2020 CATCH UP
** North Somerset Council rejects Bristol Airport application to expand
On 10th February 2020 North Somerset Council Planning & Regulatory Committee voted by a substantial majority (18:7 with 3 abstentions) to reject the Airport application for expansion, led by the powerful advocacy of Cllr Steve Hogg (Wrington Ward). The proposals would have seen more than 97,000 flights arriving and departing the airport a year (23,800 flights more than in 2017) with up to 4,000 night flights.
SBAEx jointly organised the public speakers opposing the application and included terrific contributions from advisory group members Justin Milward and Emma Crewe as well as student supporter Scarlett Vestor.
The Councillor’s decision, which went against Officers’ advice, was confirmed following the ‘cooling-off’ period by an even greater majority on 18 March. Before the meeting over 8,400 objections to the Airport’s expansion application were logged on North Somerset’s planning website, about 76% of the total –despite a massive campaign by the Airport, making questionable use of its supplier and customer databases.
** Airport appeal planning decision possible until 19th September 2020
The Council decision is not the final word on expansion: the Airport has until 19th September 2020) to appeal, which would lead to a public inquiry sometime in 2021. The Council would incur considerable legal expenditure defending their decision, with substantial costs should the Airport win the day. It’s prepared to take this risk to challenge the ‘rights’ of the Airport’s owners (the Ontario Teachers’ Pension plan) to make excessive profits at the expense of the health and wellbeing of regional communities.
If the Airport appeals and the inquiry goes ahead, we will need to demonstrate the enormous public opposition to Airport expansion and support the Council case, employing independent legal advice and representation. At which point, and working in partnership with environmental groups, we would launch a crowd-funding appeal.
** A reminder of the consequences of Bristol Airport expansion
Following the Covid pandemic the timeline for development will be stretched but the Airport intentions remain the same:
– increase from 8.5 million passengers a year (2018) to 12 million by 2025, with an eventual increase to 20 million.
– add 23,600 additional flights every year, with up to 4,000 night flights (mostly during the summer) resulting in increased in greenhouse gas emissions and other aviation pollutants.
– Greenbelt land trashed for additional parking raising total provision to over 6,000 cars.
– 9,500 extra vehicle movements daily through North Somerset, with yet more pollution and congestion from the increased traffic.
Airport expansion is part of a drive to maximise profit from the lucrative retail and parking operations demanded by the Canadian owners, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP).
Collateral damage to our health and wellbeing will be the lasting legacy of Airport expansion in return for precious little economic benefit for the region.
** Despite Council rejection the Airport has made a separate application to the Department for Transport (DfT) to increase summer night flights
Even if the Airport fails at appeal it is already submitting further applications to lay the groundwork for development and expansion of one kind or another. It has, for example, applied to the Department for Transport (DfT) for ‘co-ordinated status’ which would allow increased summer night flights from 2021. The deadline for public comment is now 26th June 2020, which was extended in response to a request for SBAEx, joined by local MPs. (link)
** Even before the Covid-19 outbreak it had built a new headquarters office building which it then promptly put on the office rental market.
It’s quite possible that this breeched ‘permitted development’ conditions. If it doesn’t… then why not? We are actively pursuing this with North Somerset Council.
LOOKING BACK: some SBAEx actions
** As part of the ongoing information and awareness campaign about the impact of Airport expansion on the health and well-being of local communities, we contributed speakers to community meetings in Weston, Congresbury, Clevedon, Keynsham, Chew Magna, Chew Stoke and elsewhere and undertook widespread distribution of leaflets to villages across North Somerset.
** We challenged the Airport’s mendacious attempts to ‘greenwash’ their unsustainable and unethical plans. These include claims to be carbon neutral by 2025 that omit emissions from flights and traffic; claims that it would be beneficial to suck in additional traffic from beyond the region; claims that, effectively, benefits to the regional economy would outweigh the damage to local health, well-being and the environment; and absurdly biased ‘opinion polls’ attempting to manipulate public opinion. See, for example: https://www.stopbristolairportexpansion.org/a-can-of-worms-opinion-polls-from-bristol-airport/
** When the Airport used its huge database and website to beg customers and suppliers to register ‘support’ for expansion on the planning website, we publicised and reported this possible breach of data privacy to the Information Commissioner’s Office (still awaiting a response).
** In early April we publicised the Airport’s current application to the Department for Transport (DfT) to acquire fully ‘co-ordinated status’ which would allow unrestricted seasonal night flights despite rejection of the planning application. We also requested an extension to the deadline, subsequently supported by others including Dr Fox MP, and the window for public comment has been extended to June 26th 2020. The SBAEx comment is on the website and has been used as the basis for responses to the DfT by groups and individuals.
** In the run-up to the crucial North Somerset planning meeting on Feb 10th we submitted questions and statements and spoke at meetings of the North Somerset Council Executive, Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). SBAEx campaigners have addressed the NSC Executive Committee, the full Council on subjects and the West of England combined Authority (WECA) on topics including: the risk of investing public funds in infrastructure to support the Airport when specialised reports shed doubt the business case for expansion in the Aviation sector; parking problems; a qualitative analysis of comments submitted to the planning officers; problems of noise pollution; the incompatibility of Airport expansion and adopting climate emergency policies. [links to follow]
** SBAEx joined other groups opposed to Airport expansion to raise over £10,000 in 3 days by crowd funding for specialist legal opinion. A leading barrister in the aviation law prepared legal advice revealing the Airport application to be riddled with assertions, inadequate evidence and internal contradictions. This advice was circulated to Councillors in advance of the Planning Meeting.
** SBAEx has lobbied regional MPs to declare their support for North Somerset Council, including powerful interventions against Airport expansion from Liam Fox, MP and John Penrose.
** We maintain strong press and media relations through press releases, radio and television interviews and press comment on issues relating to the Airport. For example, a full-page article in the Bristol Post link that challenged criticism of North Somerset Council by Airport’s CEO David Lees as the voice of a commercial organisation impatient with due democratic process, fearful of local opinion, and worried by upcoming international agreements and national legislation that will clamp down on airport expansion in response to the climate crisis.
** We work closely with other local and national organisations opposed to Airport expansion to originate and co-ordinate protest actions and events. We joined protests against Airport expansion organised in Keynsham (January 10th), Bristol (January 31) and the three-day Festival of Protest preceding the key planning meeting in Weston (10th Feb) where XR groups from Weston, Chew Valley and Bristol organised some serious fun with imaginative protests including a book of objections to planning application, heading burying in the sands of Weston beach, and various events and sketches including an satirical interview with the Airport CEO ‘Spill the Beans’.
Thanks to a generous donation we placed a roadside billboard at a prime site location entering Weston in the week preceding the NSC planning meeting, and produced a short theatre sketch ‘Spill the Beans’ – a satirical interview with the CEO of a regional Airport written by a member of SBAEx and performed by members of Chew Valley XR.
** The website carries regular updates and comment. This includes:
– a guide to the impact of Airport expansion links for all (‘Why Oppose Airport Expansion’)
– a number of ‘Fact Sheets’ with background information and evidence
– a ‘Posts’’ section with recent insights and comment;
– ‘Take Action’: how to take part.
Please visit the site, comment and share items of interest
** We are active on social media. Facebook and Twitter reports and comments on Airport actions and community reactions. Please ‘follow’, ‘like’ and share widely. https://www.facebook.com/stopbristolairportexpansion/
Thank you for taking the time to read this update, and please circulate it to others who might share our concerns.
SBAEx Advisory Group