Bristol Post



- Kate WILSON & Stephen SUMNER

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.

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 ??  ?? Protesters outside the Bristol Airport expansion meeting on Monday night
Protesters outside the Bristol Airport expansion meeting on Monday night
 ??  ?? A CGI of how Bristol Airport would look if the expansion had been approved
A CGI of how Bristol Airport would look if the expansion had been approved

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