Judge rules Bristol Airport expansion can go ahead, but campaigners pledge to fight on

A judge has today ruled that the expansion of Bristol Airport can go ahead following a challenge by opponents.

But climate campaigners say they will now fight that  decision in the Court of Appeal.

After North Somerset Council initially refused the expansion plans, Bristol Airport appealed and the Planning Inspectorate decided in February 2022 to allow the airport  to increase its cap on passengers from 10 million passengers each year to 12 million and make major investment in the terminal building, parking facilities, and public transport links.

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) fought that decision in the High Court with the judge who heard the case today rejecting the legal challenge brought against the Planning Inspectorate.

Dave Lees, CEO of Bristol Airport, said: Bristol Airport welcomes the High Court Judge’s decision to dismiss the claim and uphold the planning permission to increase Bristol Airport’s capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers per annum.

“The decision is excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create up to 5,000 new jobs, deliver more international destinations for the South West and South Wales, and invest hundreds of millions of pounds improving the customer experience. We will do this while working towards our ambitious target of net zero carbon operations by 2030. We look forward to working with stakeholders and the community to deliver our vision to be everyone’s favourite airport.”

“Expanded capacity will add 800 jobs at Bristol Airport and up to a further 5,000 regionally, adding an estimated £430 million to the South West’s economy.

“Bristol Airport made the fastest recovery from the pandemic of any major UK airport and is anticipating a busy 2023. Expanded capacity will allow the airport to explore new direct links to Europe and further afield. As well as providing economic links for our region, new routes will remove some of the millions of car journeys made from the South West and South Wales to London airports each year.”

Reacting to the High Court decision on the West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “The deep concerns of local people and the decisions of local politicians have come into head-on collision with national government policy that is not fit for purpose.

“For all their warm words this decision shows the Government is not serious about the climate emergency.

“Lord Justice Lane confirmed today that the expansion will impact the environment but as we know Government policy gives no consideration to the combined impact of airport emissions.

“This must change. We are all seeing the devastating effects of climate change with floods in Keynsham a few weeks ago and record breaking temperatures this summer. So many plants and animals are under threat of being lost for ever.”

Cllr Sarah Warren, B&NES Cabinet member for Climate & Sustainable Travel, called it “a deeply disappointing result”. She said: “This decision flies in the face of overwhelming public opposition to further unwarranted and polluting development at Bristol Airport and completely ignores both the climate emergency and democratic decision-making.

“It exposes local communities to continued and accelerating degradation of their quality of life and wellbeing, and trumpets the power of international investors, working through their lawyers, to work with impunity against the vital interests of the very communities where they take root.

“Local communities, along with almost all local MPs, local Authorities and civil groups, have been united in calling for this excessive airport expansion to be halted, yet these voices have been overruled, completely undermining local democracy.

“B&NES opposed airport expansion and we remain steadfast in our opposition. We will continue to fight to protect the interests and wellbeing of our communities who face harm and blighted prospects from these utterly ill-conceived plans. Communities in North East Somerset already suffer from noise, pollution and excessive airport traffic. At the very least, we desperately need mitigation through a deliverable and sustainable transport plan for getting people to and from the airport.

“This outcome emphasises the urgent need for a root and branch overhaul of airport policy at a national level, to bring policy into line with the advice the Government has received from its own Climate Change Committee. We need a firm cap on airport capacity, so that planning applications are seen from a national aggregated perspective and not piecemeal, to ensure that increased capacity will only be allowed at one airport if there is a corresponding drop in capacity elsewhere. Any other approach puts in jeopardy and calls into doubt the Government’s seriousness in staying true to its legally binding Net Zero targets.

“BAAN, local groups and individuals have shown such courage and integrity in the fight against this expansion. We will work with them, other councils and partner organisations as we address the inevitable damage and fallout which will come from this decision.”

The Green Party’s co-leader and Bristol city councillor Carla Denyer said: “This is a devastating outcome. Bristol Airport’s unnecessary expansion will mean thousands of extra flights which will produce one million tonnes of CO2 equivalents every year, right at the point we most need to be reducing our emissions. Not to mention more traffic, noise and air pollution for local people, and it will risk harming endangered local species. All this in face of clear local opposition.

“To make matters worse, we know that up to 20 other regional airports have their own plans to expand and will have been watching this case very closely to see if the Government will enforce its own climate policy. As the Government’s own committee on climate change has pointed out, airport expansion is completely incompatible with our commitments on climate change.”

Following the High Court ruling, members of Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol sat down outside the Bristol Civil Justice Centre where the announcement took place and had fake blood poured over them in front of a banner reading ‘Lungs before profits’.