Green and Independent councillors from the West of England sign open letter against Airport expansion
35 Green and Independent Councillors from around the West of England have signed an open letter to the Government planning inquiry dealing with Bristol Airport’s expansion appeal, calling on the inquiry to reject the airport’s appeal. Bristol Green Councillor Carla Denyer, who in 2018 proposed the UK’s first Climate Emergency declaration in Bristol, will present the open letter to the Planning Inspectorate at a public meeting of the inquiry this Thursday 22nd July.
The open letter is signed by councillors from Bristol, North Somerset and BANES, together representing almost a quarter of the population of the West of England. It calls on the planning inquiry to “respect the decision taken by North Somerset Council” to reject the Airport’s proposed expansion, which would see more than 20,000 extra flights per year and see annual passenger numbers more than double.
Following Bristol’s 2018 Climate Emergency declaration, Councils across the West of England have also passed climate emergency declarations and set carbon reduction targets. More recently, in December 2020 Bristol Council voted for a Green Party motion which said airport expansion “must not go ahead”, and in June 2019 Bath and North East Somerset formally objected to the plans.
Councillor Carla Denyer said: “In just a few months the UK will be hosting COP26, a vital global conference on climate change. If we’re going to show international leadership on climate change, and secure a liveable planet for future generations, we have to back up our tough talk by making the right decisions when it counts.
The Green councillor added: “The aviation industry will be watching this appeal closely – over 20 other regional airports across the country also have plans to expand. If North Somerset Council’s decision to reject the airport’s expansion is overturned it could open the floodgates to more as the aviation industry sees the UK won’t enforce its climate commitments. And as well as national commitments, there are local targets set by Bristol Council, North Somerset Council and WECA to reduce carbon emissions. Expanding Bristol airport would generate a million extra tonnes of CO2 equivalent every single year – 50% of Bristol’s current yearly emissions – making achieving our carbon commitments impossible.”
The open letter notes that the airport’s proposed expansion “will negate a very significant proportion of the carbon saving that our local councils and residents are working so hard to achieve”. It cites advice from the government’s Committee on Climate Change which states that there should be “no net airport expansion at this point in time”, and national planning guidance which says the planning system “should support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate”.
Greens in Bristol and across the West of England have been campaigning for years against Bristol Airport’s plans to more than double in size. In May’s local elections the party more than doubled their councillor numbers in Bristol to match the Labour administration’s 24 and received the most councillor votes across the city. Since then, the Greens gained a councillor in BANES thanks to a defection from the Lib Dems, and are hoping to make another gain in the by-election in North Somerset this week.
Councillor Denyer has also called on local representatives, including the Metro Mayor and Bristol Mayor, to support North Somerset’s decision and submit statements to the inquiry. She said:
“To his credit, newly elected WECA Mayor Dan Norris came out against airport expansion during his local election campaign – we hope he will stand by his words and put in a statement to the inquiry against the airport’s appeal. Likewise, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, who has previously supported the airport but voted for a Green motion which opposed the expansion, should formally make clear Bristol Council’s opposition to the planning inspectorate.”