Climate campaigners take Bristol Airport expansion row to High Court

Bristol Airport wants to increase flights by more than 10,000 a year to almost 86,000 Credit: ITV

Campaigners fighting the expansion of Bristol Airport say they're confident of blocking the plans when they argue their case in the High Court.

Opponents will accuse government planning inspectors of failing to follow the correct legal process when they overturned North Somerset Council's original decision to reject the plans.

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) raised £60,000 to fight the airport's owners, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which has net assets of more than £200 billion.

"All our legal arguments were ignored," claimed BAAN's Stephen Clarke. "We believe the decision is riddled with errors in law and we have a good case.

"What (the Airport) is there for is to try allow people to fly without feeling guilty. And to allow them to expand without feeling guilty. It's greenwash.

"People are getting more worried and more aware of climate change and I don't think airports will be allowed to expand indefinitely.

"Bristol is very important as a test case.

"There are all these other airports waiting to expand and if we can stop it in Bristol, which I genuinely believe we can, I think that would be an amazing thing."

It is claimed some 20 regional airports are watching the outcome of the Bristol plan before finalising their decisions on whether to try to expand.

Expansion plans timeline

  • The airport first revealed its expansion plans in 2018, but it wasn't until two years later that it was considered by the local council who, despite officers' recommendation to approve, was rejected by councillors on environmental grounds.

  • Airport bosses appealed and a four-week public inquiry was held at Weston-super-Mare town hall.

  • After months of waiting the independent planning inspectorate overturned the original decision and granted the expansion in February.

  • That has led to this week's two-day challenge in the High Court in Bristol.

Bristol Airport wants to increase annual passenger capacity by two million to 12 million and flights by 10,420 to almost 86,000 a year.

In a statement to ITV News, it said: “Bristol Airport welcomed the decision of the Planning Inspectorate in February to allow our expanded capacity.

"The decision was excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create thousands of new jobs in the years ahead and open up new direct links, and support inbound tourism.

"Since then, we have pushed ahead with our plans for net zero carbon operations by 2030 and our work with partners in the region to decarbonise flight.”

The investment in a bigger terminal, new transport links, and car park would cost around £250 million. It is claimed 800 new jobs will be created on site and 5,000 in the local economy, figures disputed by BAAN.