Bristol Green councillors will be joining a march taking place 31 January in the city against the expansion of Bristol airport, as the planning decision in North Somerset draws nearer, with the date now set for 10 Feb.
The airport’s expansion plans have come under fire from environmental activists as they would more than double the number of passengers and build parking spaces on protected greenbelt land. To date over 7500 comments have been submitted on the airport’s planning application, with 5289 objections and 2239 in favour.
Meanwhile nearby local authorities like North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and their regional body WECA have all declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ and pledged to reduce carbon emissions. Bristol was the first council in the country to declare a climate emergency and set a target of going carbon neutral by 2030 after Greens moved a motion in November 2018.
However the City’s Labour Mayor has since been accused of “a failure of leadership” for continuing to support the airport’s expansion plans. Green Party councillors and activists (including deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Amelia Womack) will join the march against airport expansion starting at College Green at 12 noon on the 31st January. A number of environmental groups and other bodies are expected to join the march.
Green councillors say that since the Climate Emergency was declared they’ve seen little signs of serious action from the city’s Labour Mayor, who remains a supporter of the airport’s expansion in statements to the press, and who issued a supportive letter to North Somerset last summer that said: “Bristol City Council supports the important role that Bristol Airport plays in connecting the West of England”. The Mayor also published an article on his personal blog in which he discussed meeting the airport’s CEO and said “I am really supportive of their application for expansion”.
At Bristol Council meetings Greens have repeatedly challenged the Mayor’s support for the expansion plans. Along with members of the public, at a recent Council meeting (January 14) Green councillor Steve Clarke pressed the Mayor on his previous claims that Bristol was not a major stakeholder. Councillor Clarke asked the Mayor to withdraw his support and send a letter of objection to the airport’s plans, and then to confirm whether or not he supported the plans, however the Mayor twice refused to answer the question.
Green Councillor Carla Denyer has also challenged the Mayor on his support for airport expansion, noting that analysis suggests it benefits the wealthiest 10% of the population at the expense of the majority who will suffer the impacts of climate change. As well as attending the airport expansion march, councillors urged the public to respond to the Airport’s planning application and make their views known.
“At Full Council in January, Marvin Rees evasively said “I want the number of people flying to go down” yet he still supports Bristol airport expansion, failing to understand that airport expansion itself drives demand for flights. It’s like saying “I want the number of people eating junk food to go down” while backing the opening of dozens of new takeaways! The Mayor has also repeatedly claimed that his view was not important, which rather begs the question as to why he has stated his support for the airport’s plans on so many occasions and misses the point that Bristol City Council is a statutory consultee for the application. I really think he has exhibited a failure of leadership in this debacle. I urge the Mayor to listen to the experts on this and change his position – as the saying goes, ‘those who never change their mind, never change anything’.”
“If you agree that we have to preserve a liveable planet for future generations, please come join us on this march next Friday. We need to show the decision makers in North Somerset – and in Bristol – the strength of people’s feeling against these catastrophic and unnecessary plans which will leave our climate targets in tatters”