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  1. ITV Report

Bristol Airport: Saving the planet or preventing progress? Our correspondent Richard Payne takes a look

Campaigners cheered as the results were declared Credit: ITV News West Country

Campaigners fighting Bristol Airport's expansion are still drying tears of joy after their unexpected victory - for now, at least.

Rightly, they recognise the battle has been won but not the war. An appeal from the Airport looks likely and the arguments of environment versus economy will be replayed yet again.

Bristol Airport CEO Dave Lees shared his disappointment in the decision. Credit: ITV News West Country

But in convincing North Somerset councillors to overturn their officers' advice - rare but not unprecedented - the Stop Bristol Airport Expansion group and others have won important time.

Time, they believe, when the world's attention will be further focused on the green agenda and need to cut carbon, strengthening their chances of an ultimate victory.

  • What are the wider implications?

Many regional airports want to expand, too, and were looking to Bristol for a blueprint. Now that's been torn up, will the aviation industry suffer a setback to further growth something some believe has already gone far enough.

The vote represents a gamble by councillors.

Not for incurring the wrath of the public - more than 80% of those living in North Somerset who gave an opinion opposed the expansion - but by risking the fall-out of an appeal.

The council said the airport's expansion couldn't be justified. Credit: ITV News West Country

The airport owners, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, have six months to lodge a challenge which would be heard at a public inquiry. That's costly, especially for the losers.

Timing proved crucial.

A wise head told me if this vote had been held last year, the application would have been approved by a Tory-controlled council. Now run by independents, a rubber stamping was far from certain and those not tied to party lines expressed freedoms rarely seen inside a council chamber.

Airport bosses want to increase passenger numbers from 8.6 million a year to 12 million by 2026. Credit: Bristol Airport

For an authority who exactly a year ago voted to declare a Climate Emergency, it would have been curious for any other outcome, perhaps.

The four-and-a-half hour planning meeting was routine enough but the result, when it came, shocked even those desperate for the outcome it produced.

Tears and cheers in the public gallery - and overspill beyond, so many were anxious to turn out on the wet and windy Monday night in Weston-super-Mare.

This process has cost the Airport dear, literally and metaphorically, and deeper pockets will be needed if the fight is to be continued.

At the end of January, thousands of protesters marched through Bristol campaigning against the proposed plans. Credit: ITV News West Country

For now, certainly, the vote has cost job opportunities, road improvements, the prospect of flights to New York and Dubai and lots more besides, maybe even, it's been warned, the loss of airlines currently on site.

But the price to the planet was far greater, it's argued.

Common sense has prevailed, they say. But brace yourselves for this argument to take off again with turbulence guaranteed.