The official reasons for refusing Bristol Airport’s expansion have been revealed ahead of a second vote.
The transport hub wants to boost its capacity from 10million passengers per year to 12million.
But North Somerset councillors threw out the application last month, saying the environmental and societal impacts outweighed the economic benefits of the expansion.
As they defied officer advice, that decision will be ratified next week.
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Councillors gave seven reasons for refusal – and officers have looked at whether they stack up.
The additional noise, traffic and off-airport car parking would result in adverse environmental impacts on communities.
Council policy “expressly requires” plans for Bristol Airport to “demonstrate the satisfactory resolution” of environmental issues, including the impact on surrounding communities and roads.
The proposed development does not make a sustainable contribution to economic objectives due to the scale of outbound leisure travel, and with low skilled jobs at the airport giving way to automation it is uncertain that expansion will deliver additional and sustainable jobs.
National policy says a balance has to be struck between the positive economic impact of flights and the negative impacts on health, quality of life and productivity.
Lifting seasonal restrictions on night flights would have serious adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of residents.
Council policy says any development that would result in pollution or harm people’s health will “only be permitted if the potential adverse effects would be mitigated”.
The proposed increase in passenger numbers would exacerbate climate change and would not help the transition to a low carbon future.
Officers said the authority and central government have both made commitments to cut carbon emissions and move to a low carbon economy.
There would be an adverse impact on wildlife habitats and would not boost biodiversity.
Officers challenged this, citing Natural England’s confidence that there would be a “net biodiversity gain”.
Extending the silver zone car park and allowing the seasonal car park to be used year-round is inappropriate development in the green belt and there are no “very special circumstances” that outweigh the harm.
Officers contended that there were very special circumstances but said the committee was “entitled to come to a different conclusion”.
The proposed public transport provision is inadequate and will not sufficiently reduce the reliance on the car. The result would be an unacceptable increase in traffic volumes, congestion and parking.
Officers said the increase in traffic volumes, congestion and parking on the local road would not have a severe impact, and safe and suitable access can be achieved.
Since North Somerset Council threw out the application, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the planned expansion of Heathrow Airport is unlawful because it fails to take account of the Government’s commitment to tackle climate change. An appeal in the Supreme Court is expected.
Leading opposition against the plans, North Somerset councillor Steve Hogg told the planning and regulatory committee meeting on February 10: “This will fundamentally damage the relationship between this council and residents for years to come.
“We must weigh the benefits – which flow towards the airport, its shareholders, pension funds and those seeking a cheap holiday in the Med – against the unbearable burdens that will fall on the local community and the environment.”
Planning committee members warned that Bristol Airport would appeal if its plans were rejected and the costs would be “astronomical”.
Officers said in the report to next week’s meeting: “A planning appeal would require the council to incur expenditure in relation to engaging a barrister and expert witnesses. The council is also at risk of an award of costs against it in any future appeal proceedings, if it cannot justify its decision.”
But they said the potential costs of an appeal are not a material planning consideration.
Bristol Airport chief executive Dave Lees said the decision risks “putting the brakes” on the future growth of the region.
The airport has not commented on the reasons for refusal.
Councillors are set to ratify their decision on March 18 at the Town Hall in Weston-super-Mare.
Bristol Airport will then have six months to decide whether to lodge an appeal, which would be heard at a public inquiry.
The meeting will be live-streamed at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/airport.
Council bosses have again taken the step of banning certain items from being brought into the meeting. These include sharp objects, marker pens, umbrellas, loud hailers and air horns.
Stephen Sumner is a local democracy reporter for North Somerset
Main image courtesy of Bristol Airport