The CBI South West Region [CBISW] has declared last-minute support for Bristol Airport’s expansion plans [note 1]. These were rejected by North Somerset Council in February 2020 and are now subject to a Public Inquiry.
The CBISW evidently inhabits a parallel universe where the climate crisis is fake news, corporate activity will inevitably cause collateral damage to health and well-being, and the democratic will of the region’s electorate is little more than an inconvenient hindrance best ignored. [note 2]
So here’s a heads-up:
The CBISW states that Bristol Airport’s current expansion plans can be an important part of a South West economic recovery ‘which places sustainability at its heart.’ This simply echoes the Airport’s claims that have now been comprehensively demolished by recent analysis such as New Economics Foundation reports [note 3]. Sophisticated automation, the export of £millions of tourist pounds, the cost of infrastructure, the damage to human health and the environment born by the public purse amongst and many other costs are ignored by the Airport and evidently by the CBISW as well.
Business travel through Bristol Airport amounts to 15% of passenger traffic (and falling) while the remaining 85% capacity serves the leisure market. So no expansion is needed for the business community and the reasonable tourist demand from the region is served perfectly well, still with head room for expansion to 10mppa without need of further planning permission.
However, one lesson from Covid-19 is that the market economy no longer reigns supreme: economic growth cannot trump the harmful impacts on human health, wellbeing and the environment. The CBISW flirts with hypocrisy when claiming to ‘place sustainability at its heart’ and simultaneously support an Airport plan that refuses to acknowledge the deadly impact of the aircraft on physical and mental health which provide its sole reason for existence.
This volatile expansion plan aims to reinvent the Airport as a hub at the expense of other airports in the current network of regional provision. Its disingenuous and self-serving arguments are driven by the fear of constraints on growth that will inevitably be imposed by government aviation and environmental legislation due later this year.
The CBISW could recognise that Airport expansion is opposed by the main city and town councils of the region, by parish councils and community groups and by the regional MPs. As Don Davis, leader of North Somerset Council, puts it: ‘the detrimental effect of the expansion of the Airport on this area and the wider impact on the environment outweighs the narrower benefits to Airport expansion. … I am sure that we can reconsider [a planning application] in future when the airline industry has decarbonised and the public transport links to the airport are far stronger.’
So we call on the CBISW to reconnect with reality and withdraw its support for the Airport plan, as many other have done as they realise the dangerous absurdity of expansion. As a positive measure it could encourage the Airport to produce a revised plan fit for the new Green economy. This would lock increased passenger numbers to technical development in aviation and fuel technologies that reduce harmful impacts to zero as a condition of growth. The plan must be driven by this data rather than arbitrary dates and projections based on run-away market demand and designed solely to benefit its overseas investors.
Contact the CBI South West at: email@example.com
2. see SBAEx updates for further information: https://www.stopbristolairportexpansion.org/home/updates/