Bristol Airport expansion has been rejected by councillors. Photograph: Wikipedia Bristol Airport expansion has been rejected by councillors. Photograph: Wikipedia

Council rejects Bristol Airport expansion on environmental grounds

Controversial plans to see Bristol Airport grow by an extra two million passengers a year have been thrown out by councillors on noise and climate grounds, against the advice of planning officers.

North Somerset Council’s planning committee yesterday refused to grant outline planning permission for the airport expansion. The proposals included plans to build a 2,150-space multi-storey car park, extensions to the terminal building, changes to flight times and three additional aircraft spaces.

The 196-hectare airport is located 3km south of the protected Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and just over 10km north-east of Bristol. 

Noise, which could have negatively impacted some 12,500 people, was a major factor in the planning committee’s refusal, despite advice from officers that increases were acceptable. 

Under current plans, the airport’s expansion could have created “adverse health effects” for some of those residents, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance. But the council’s own planning officers said increases to noise levels were “reasonable” and WHO targets immaterial because they had not been adopted into government aviation policy.

The planning committee’s reasons for refusal also included concerns over increases in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) brought about by the airport’s growth. According to developer Bristol Airport Limited, the expansion would have created an additional 154.29 kilo tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year – the largest increase generated from additional aircraft movements (106.59 ktCO2yr). But planning officers said that GHG levels were acceptable and within the carbon budget proposed by the government’s advisers on climate, the Committee on Climate Change.

In total, the council received 9,374 objections to the expansion, including one representation from ex-trade secretary and North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox, while 2,406 people were in favour of the expansion. 

After the vote was cast, council leader Don Davies said the airport could still expand to the 10 million passengers a year limit granted under previous planning consents. 

He said: “What the committee has considered is that the detrimental effect of the expansion of the airport on this area and the wider impact on the environment outweighs the narrower benefits to airport expansion.

“I know some people will be upset by this decision and I am sure that we can reconsider it in future when the airline industry has decarbonised and the public transport links to the airport are far stronger.”

Bristol Airport’s chief executive Dave Lees said the decision risked slowing future growth of the region. He added that his company will now be considering whether or not to appeal the council’s decision or submit fresh plans.

To view the planning application in full click here. Planning Ref: 18/P/5118/OUT 

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