The proposed expansion of Bristol Airport has been given the green light. Campaign group Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) mounted a legal challenge against the plans in the High Court in November 2022, but the High Court has now ruled that the expansion can go ahead. BAAN was granted the legal challenge in May 2022. It was the latest in a tug-of-war about the expansion, which would increase the airport’s capacity from 10M to 12M annual passengers. North Somerset Council rejected the scheme in February 2020, but this was appealed and eventually overturned by the Planning Inspectorate in February last year. Planning lawyers, economists and environmentalists warned that this u-turn had set a “dangerous precedent”. Following today’s decision, a Bristol Airport spokesperson said: “Bristol Airport welcomes the High Court Judge’s decision to dismiss the claim and uphold the planning permission to increase Bristol Airport’s capacity from 10M to 12M passengers per annum. “The decision is excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create up to 5,000 new jobs, deliver more international destinations for the South West and South Wales, and invest hundreds of millions of pounds improving the customer experience. We will do this while working towards our ambitious target of net zero carbon operations by 2030 and we look forward to working with stakeholders and the community to deliver our vision to be everyone’s favourite airport.”
BAAN Representative Stephen Clarke Said.
“The government has policies in place which are designed to encourage the growth of airports and the number of people wanting to fly. “This shows a total disregard for the climate emergency we are in.” BAAN raised more than £20,000 to cover legal fees for the High Court hearing. The group contends that the expansion would see damage to the local population and environment, great increase noise and air pollution, generate more road traffic and result in rising carbon emissions. As airport passenger numbers continue to rise post-pandemic, airport expansions are back on the cards, with Heathrow eyeing up a renewed bid for a third runway. Meanwhile, Southampton Airport was recently granted permission to expand after an appeal was thrown out. The proposed reopening of Manston Airport in Kent has also been given the go ahead, despite planners recommending that its development consent order application (DCO) be refused. A legal challenge against the plans was subsequently dismissed. Meanwhile Stansted’s expansion plans had been refused by Uttlesford District Council’s Planning Committee in January 2020, but that decision was also overturned by the Planning Inspectorate following a public inquiry, with the council told to pay the airport’s appeal bill. The Inspector’s decision report pointed to various failures by the council and a High Court judge later dismissed its challenge to expansion at Stansted Airport as “unarguable”. The Bristol and Stansted projects were overturned by the Planning Inspectorate and Manston by the secretary of state, and in both cases Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) director Tim Johnson has emphasised what the AEF see as a flawed decision making process, based on outdated policies. “At Bristol and Stansted, the inspectors accepted that aircraft emissions were largely an issue for national policy and the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) and Making Best Use (MBU) both supported growth,” he said. “While both councils had declared climate emergencies these had not yet found their way into relevant local plan considerations. “We have criticised relying on the ANPS and MBU because both documents were issued prior to net zero legislation coming into effect. At Manston, the secretary of state relied on the government’s Jet Zero strategy which isn’t aligned with the Committee on Climate Change’s advice and has been criticised by NGOs for being a high risk strategy that relies on unproven technologies.”