Bristol Airport expansion plans given go-ahead after planning appeal

  • Video report by Max Walsh

Bristol Airport will be able to expand after it won its appeal against North Somerset Council's decision to refuse planning permission.

The planning inspectorate's decision has been hailed "excellent news" for the region's economy by the airport, while it was described as "devastating" by opponents of the expansion.

It will see Bristol Airport's capacity increase from 10 million passengers to 12 million passengers a year.

The airport says it will also create around 800 new jobs.

As part of the plans, the terminal will be made bigger and a multi-storey car park will be built to hold as many as 2,500 cars. The airport also plans to improve bus routes.

An impression of what the expansion could look like Credit: Bristol Airport

But the plans have proved controversial, with campaigners saying the expansion would be harmful to the environment.

North Somerset Council rejected the proposals in February 2020, despite its own officers saying they should be recommended for approval.

Bristol Airport's subsequent appeal to the planning inspectorate has now been successful.

Dave Lees, CEO, Bristol Airport said: "The decision is excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create thousands of new jobs in the years ahead and provide more choice for our customers, supporting inbound tourism, and reducing the millions of road journeys made to London airports each year.

"We will now push ahead with our multi-million-pound plans for net zero operations by 2030 and look forward to working with stakeholders and the community to deliver sustainable growth.”

Bristol Airport Action Network campaigner Stephen Clarke said his group will be speaking to a legal team tomorrow about the decision.

Bristol Airport Action Network campaigner Stephen Clarke said his group will be speaking to a legal team about the decision.

He said: "We think there's a number of reasons that this decision could be unlawful and is therefore challengeable in the high courts.

"We had three experts who gave evidence saying that this was disastrous. They didn't listen to the 11,000 people who put in comments.

"They haven't listened to local politicians. They've listened to the owners of Bristol Airport and they've just gone for business as usual and we cannot carry on with business as usual", he added.

North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox said the decision was "hugely disappointing".

North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox said the decision was "hugely disappointing".

Bristol Airport has a unique problem in that the transport infrastructure in the area I don't think is able to accommodate that number of passengers without a serious impact in the quality of life of people who live in the towns and villages", he said.

North Somerset Council leader Don Davies also expressed his “extreme disappointment” and said the decision after a 36-day inquiry “flies in the face of local democracy”.

Bristol Airport.

He added: “It completely undermines our vision for a green North Somerset, our determination to tackle the climate emergency and the target we’ve set for the area to be carbon neutral by 2030. 

“We face a climate emergency and to countenance yet more leisure flights that predominate from this airport is completely unacceptable from one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The airport’s important role in the region’s economy would have continued without expanding beyond its currently 10 million passengers a year limit.

“We’re studying the inspectors’ decision to see if there are any grounds to challenge and we’re working hard regardless to hold the airport to account to deliver their promises to reduce the carbon impact of the airport’s operations, especially around non-car travel to the airport and the greenwashing promises of the airline industry to decarbonise, which in reality will not happen in this decade.”