FLIGHT OR FIGHT

AIR­PORT WEIGH­ING UP ITS OP­TIONS AF­TER SUR­PRISE RE­JEC­TION OF EX­PAN­SION PLAN

Bristol Post - - FRONT PAGE - Kate WIL­SON & Stephen SUM­NER ep­[email protected]­plc.com

BRIS­TOL Air­port is con­sid­er­ing its op­tions af­ter its con­tro­ver­sial ex­pan­sion plans were un­ex­pect­edly re­jected by North Som­er­set Coun­cil.

The air­port wanted to in­crease its cur­rent ca­pac­ity from 10 mil­lion to 12 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year, while adding thou­sands more park­ing spa­ces.

Re­fus­ing plan­ning per­mis­sion by 18 votes to seven, North Som­er­set coun­cil­lors said the en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­ci­etal im­pacts out­weighed the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the ex­pan­sion.

Be­cause the com­mit­tee went against of­fi­cer ad­vice, the de­ci­sion will have to be rat­i­fied by the coun­cil at a fu­ture meet­ing.

Af­ter the de­ci­sion, Bris­tol Air­port chief ex­ec­u­tive Dave Lees said that it risked “putting the brakes” on the fu­ture growth of the re­gion when other ar­eas are forg­ing ahead.

He said the firm would “re­flect” and con­sider whether to ap­peal or sub­mit fresh plans.

Coun­cil­lor Peter Bryant had claimed the air­port was likely to win an ap­peal and that the costs to the coun­cil would be “as­tro­nom­i­cal”, but au­thor­ity leader Don Davies re­jected those “fright tac­tics”.

Coun­cil­lor Davies said Bris­tol Air­port should come back with fresh plans which show how the two mil­lion ex­tra pas­sen­gers would get to the air­port via public trans­port.

Cli­mate cam­paign­ers have hailed the de­ci­sion by North Som­er­set Coun­cil’s plan­ning com­mit­tee as “his­toric”.

They hope that it will act as a cat­a­lyst when it comes to the avi­a­tion in­dus­try and in­spire other lo­cal coun­cils to re­ject air­port ex­pan­sion.

An­gela Terry, en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist and founder of cli­mate ac­tion web­site One Home, said: “North Som­er­set Coun­cil is to be con­grat­u­lated on this coura­geous de­ci­sion, which is a firm state­ment on how se­ri­ously the re­gion views the cli­mate emer­gency.

“The grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion means that all po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion­mak­ing must place cli­mate change cen­tre-stage and to­day we have seen this in ac­tion.

“Bris­tol and the sur­round­ing area can now con­tinue its work to de­car­bonise, know­ing that it does not have to fight a los­ing bat­tle with in­creas­ing avi­a­tion emis­sions.

“This was the right de­ci­sion for peo­ple and planet and the air­port must now draw a line un­der this dam­ag­ing pro­posal.”

Mon­day night’s de­ci­sion came as a sur­prise to many, es­pe­cially as of­fi­cers had rec­om­mended that the com­mit­tee ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion.

But fol­low­ing a four-and-a-halfhour meet­ing in We­ston-su­perMare, coun­cil­lors re­jected the ex­pan­sion plans by 18 votes to seven.

Call­ing for the ap­pli­ca­tion to be re­jected at the spe­cial plan­ning and reg, Cllr Steve Hogg said: “This will fun­da­men­tally dam­age the re­la­tion­ship be­tween this coun­cil and res­i­dents for years to come.

“I want to pro­pose in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms we vote against the of­fi­cers’ rec­om­men­da­tion and refuse per­mis­sion.

“This will ei­ther go to an ap­peal or a ju­di­cial re­view. Ei­ther way, public money will be spent. Would you rather spend public money de­fend­ing the com­mu­nity or fa­cil­i­tat­ing the ex­pan­sion of a large sin

gle busi­ness?

“We must weigh the ben­e­fits – which flow to­wards the air­port, its share­hold­ers, pen­sion funds and those seek­ing a cheap hol­i­day in the Med – against the un­bear­able bur­dens that will fall on the lo­cal com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Chal­leng­ing the of­fi­cers’ sug­ges­tion lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have lit­tle con­trol over emis­sions linked to avi­a­tion, Cllr Hogg said: “We have di­rect con­trol over the fu­ture emis­sions. We do that by turn­ing down this ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Bris­tol Air­port had claimed its ex­pan­sion would ben­e­fit the West of Eng­land’s econ­omy to the tune of £210mil­lion. North Som­er­set Coun­cil’s con­sul­tants were more con­ser­va­tive, putting the fig­ure be­tween £110mil­lion and £167mil­lion.

Sup­port­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion, Unite rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Hutchi­son said the ex­pan­sion would cre­ate thou­sands of jobs and bring a huge boost to the re­gion. Busi­ness own­ers said the ex­pan­sion was nec­es­sary for them to thrive.

The ap­pli­ca­tion had been met with 8,800 ob­jec­tions and some 2,400 mes­sages of sup­port.

Cllr Peter Crew said many of the top­ics raised were not di­rectly re­lated to the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion, adding: “I can see noth­ing wrong with the ap­pli­ca­tion in plan­ning terms and I am cer­tainly in favour of it.”

Cllr Terry Porter said re­fusal would not make any dif­fer­ence to cli­mate change, adding: “We have to sup­port this. I will vote against most of you.”

They were among only seven coun­cil­lors who voted against re­fus­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion. Cllr Hogg’s pro­posal was backed by 18 coun­cil­lors, and there was one ab­sten­tion.

So what hap­pens next?

De­spite a re­sound­ing re­fusal from North Som­er­set’s plan­ning and reg­u­la­tory com­mit­tee the process is far from over.

North Som­er­set Coun­cil has a very par­tic­u­lar process when it comes to plan­ning de­ci­sions.

Be­cause it was a ma­jor ap­pli­ca­tion and be­cause the com­mit­tee went against the of­fi­cers’ rec­om­men­da­tions, the de­ci­sion will re­turn to the same com­mit­tee to be rat­i­fied.

A date has not yet been set for the plan­ning and reg­u­la­tory com­mit­tee meet­ing to rat­ify the vote.

Dur­ing this meet­ing of­fi­cers will present the rea­sons for re­fusal that coun­cil­lors agreed on Mon­day night and ask whether the com­mit­tee wants to stand by its orig­i­nal de­ci­sion or change its mind and ap­prove the scheme.

If the de­ci­sion is rat­i­fied, Bris­tol Air­port has six months to lodge an ap­peal, which would be heard at a public in­quiry.

This can be very costly to coun­cils if the Plan­ning In­spec­tor de­cides to up­hold the ap­peal and over­turn the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to refuse.

There is also a dan­ger if the de­ci­sion is over­turned that North Som­er­set Coun­cil loses its pow­ers to en­force any con­di­tions on the ap­pli­cant when it comes to the de­vel­op­ment.

It would be for the Plan­ning In­spec­tor who is over­see­ing the case to de­cide what costs and con­di­tions to im­pose on North Som­er­set Coun­cil if they dis­agree with its de­ci­sion.

A plan­ning in­quiry for an ap­pli­ca­tion of this size could take sev­eral weeks with wit­nesses and ex­perts called to give ev­i­dence for both sides.

There is a chance that the Sec­re­tary of State may de­cide he wants to have the fi­nal say in the de­ci­sion.

If this is the case the plan­ning in­quiry will still go ahead but the plan­ning in­spec­tor will make a rec­om­men­da­tion to the Sec­re­tary of State and the fi­nal de­ci­sion will then be in his hands.

Pro­test­ers out­side the Bris­tol Air­port ex­pan­sion meet­ing on Mon­day night

A CGI of how Bris­tol Air­port would look if the ex­pan­sion had been ap­proved

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