No doubt you will have heard that on Wednesday 26 October SBAE had an Oral Hearing at the High Court of Justice. We were seeking permission to challenge North Somerset Council’s decision to allow expansion of Bristol Airport to go ahead. The Challenge was taken on two points. Firstly that the 2003 Air Transport White Paper was out of date and did not take sufficient account of climate change and secondly, on the validity of the economic case for expansion. Unfortunately permission to our challenge was refused by the judge, Mr Justice Collins. Mr Justice Collins ruled that council officers had not misdirected councillors by stating that the White Paper meant that the climate change impacts of aviation did not need to be considered by North Somerset Council. SBAE had challenged this use of the White Paper because this meant there was an extraordinary position whereby the Climate Change Act 2008 and other relevant policies on climate change couldn’t be taken into consideration. Yet the current coalition government’s Secretary of State for Transport has stated: “The previous government’s 2003 White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, is fundamentally out of date, because it fails to give sufficient weight to the challenge of climate change”. The judge recognised that the 2003 White Paper is out of date but as it has not yet been officially withdrawn, considered that it is still the relevant policy to adhere to and made his decision on that basis. Although this was a very disappointing result, we feel that growth at airports and at Bristol Airport will not be nearly so fast in future. Times have changed to one of slower growth, a weaker pound and higher oil prices. The recent report ‘ UK aviation forecasts August 2011’ from the Department of Transport supports our comments estimating demand at Bristol Airport to be no more than 6 million passengers at 2020 (numbers are currently just below this) and between 7 and 9 million passengers per annum at 2030. After years of 10% per annum growth, it must be quite a shock for the airport to see no significant growth between 2008 and 2020 (it carried 5.7m passengers over the last 12 months, considerably less than in 2008 and only 0.1% over last year's total).
Our job now is to closely monitor the 70 conditions attached to the planning application and continue to highlight the impacts of expansion on local communities, such as increased traffic congestion on country roads and noise pollution, plus a massive rise in carbon emissions from flights, if the airport actually does expand. We want to thank you for all your support since we started the campaign in 2005. We’ll continue to keep in touch with you all (but let us know if you want to be removed from our mailing list) about general issues affecting airports, and therefore Bristol Airport’s, activities, and anything else that may arise from Bristol Airport’s compliance with its planning conditions. We expect to be in touch again in the New Year about the Government’s new aviation policy. A public consultation on the policy is expected in the spring and we will let you know how to respond. This consultation is important as it will affect our quality of life and of the impacts upon the environment unless the Government acts to prevent increased noise and emissions from flights. We want more from the Government than apparently well-meaning words – we want solid legislation to regulate noise and carbon emissions.