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WEST OF ENGLAND: Bristol Airport Weca motion

WEST OF ENGLAND: Bristol Airport Weca motion

Image: Weca/YouTube

The region’s leaders have reversed their support of Bristol Airport’s proposed expansion.

Campaigners applauded as a motion tabled by metro mayor Dan Norris to formally oppose the plans was approved with some amendments at a meeting of the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) joint committee on Tuesday (September 21).

But South Gloucestershire Council leader Toby Savage branded it “as useful as a chocolate teapot”, despite voting in favour, because the decision on whether the airport can increase passenger numbers from 10million to 12million a year lies with planning inspectors at an ongoing public inquiry.

Bristol’s city mayor Marvin Rees was not at the meeting because of a prior engagement and sent deputy mayor Craig Cheney who abstained as fellow Labour mayor Mr Norris, Conservative Cllr Savage, Bath & North East Somerset Council Lib Dem leader Kevin Guy and North Somerset Council independent leader Don Davies backed the motion.

Mr Norris said at the meeting, held at Watermore Primary School in Frampton Cotterell: “It is time for moral leadership and I’m really proud that this motion has been carried.

“The people are ahead of the politicians on this issue.

“We have a net zero target for 2030 in our region. That’s a very tough call and a really hard thing to achieve.

“We have to reduce our CO2 emissions by 10 per cent a year, year on year.

“That is not easy but we should really try to do it and that’s why we need moral leadership today with this motion.”

Cllr Savage proposed an amendment deleting the crucial final line saying “the committee resolves to oppose the latest plans to expand Bristol Airport” – which Mr Norris vetoed – but adding several sections which were incorporated in the final version as amended by the regional mayor and agreed by members.

These included recognising the importance of the aerospace centre of excellence at Filton, requesting the local authorities’ chief executives to bring a report to next month’s committee on how to support the decarbonisation of aviation and opposing the carbon emissions associated with the airport’s current expansion plans.

Cllr Savage told Mr Norris at the meeting: “I welcome your amendment to the original motion and for taking on board the issues we have highlighted.

“It’s really important we recognise the strong aerospace industry we have in the region.

“We want that to thrive but we need to do more to help the industry with its decarbonising efforts and I am pleased that is in there.

“While I do not doubt how strongly people feel about this, we need to be realistic as to how meaningful it actually is for the combined authority to be opposing the airport expansion.

“It is perhaps as useful as a chocolate teapot but I recognise the importance of the report that will be coming back to the committee that will show what is in the combined authority’s gift to support the aerospace industry in decarbonising.”

He said the airport was not in Weca’s footprint, as North Somerset was a member of the joint committee only and not of the combined authority itself, and that the regional body also had no power over the planning decision either before or now.

Cllr Guy said: “We would be very foolish to think overnight that people would stop flying, so we need to do our utmost to encourage the aerospace industry to be as green as possible as quickly as possible.

“It is really important to say we are opposed to the plans to expand Bristol Airport.”

Cllr Davies said: “The support of the surrounding authorities for the support for our decision to refuse the expansion while we have the planning appeal under way is hugely uplifting for us as an authority.”

North Somerset Council refused planning permission last year and is currently defending that decision at a public inquiry.

The final version of the motion reads:

‘The Joint Committee recognises:

– There is a climate and biodiversity emergency.

– The West of England has ambition net zero targets for 2030.

– The proposed expansion of Bristol Airport is one of the biggest carbon decisions in the region for the coming decade.

– The pandemic has significantly reduced air travel with a 75.6 per cent drop in passenger numbers in 2020 and is expected to recover although to an unknown level.

– Bristol Airport’s role as an employer in the region and the need for a just transition to a greener economy that does not leave workers worse-off.

– Bristol City Council and B&NES Council opposition to current airport expansion and North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to expand beyond 10million passengers a year.

– The importance of the wider aerospace centre of excellence at Filton and its major contribution to our economy, skills base and industrial heritage.

– Ongoing efforts being pioneered locally by industry to decarbonise aviation, including through the Jet Zero initiative.

– The Combined Authority’s role as transport authority for its area to improve sustainable and decarbonised travel options to and from the airport.

The Joint Committee resolves:

– To oppose the latest plans to expand Bristol Airport.

– Supporting North Somerset Council’s position in refusing Bristol Airport’s latest planning application which is currently the subject of an appeal inquiry and to oppose the additional expansion of Bristol Airport represented in that planning application.

– Opposing the carbon emissions associated with the additional expansion of Bristol Airport represented in their latest planning application.

-To request that West of England chief executives bring a report back to the October 2021 meeting of the joint committee setting out a range of proposals to support the decarbonising of aviation.

Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter


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