Public inquiry into airport appeal to start next week

Proposed look of entrance to Bristol Airport

Bristol Airport reveals more details of major expansion plans. - Credit: Bristol Airport

The public inquiry into Bristol Airport's appeal against North Somerset Council's decision to refuse the airport's expansion plans will start on Tuesday.

Last year the council rejected plans by the airport to expand its passenger throughput from 10 million to 12 million passengers a year and change its night flying arrangements. The airport appealed against this decision and a public inquiry has been arranged by the Government's Planning Inspectorate (PINs) to hear the appeal.

The inquiry will open at 10am on Tuesday at the Town Hall in Weston and will be live streamed on YouTube.

It is forecast to sit for approximately 40 days with a break of two weeks from August 16-27 and also the week of September 20 when the inquiry is in recess. It is expected to finish in mid-October.

A panel of three independent inspectors will consider the appeal with an independent programme officer administering the inquiry arrangements on their behalf. All the main participants, including the council and the airport, have submitted their full proofs of evidence to the inspectors setting out the details of their respective cases for the inspectors to consider during the inquiry.

An inquiry website - gateleyhamer-pi.com/en-gb/bristol-airport/ - has been set up by the programme officer where these and other related documents can be viewed.

A detailed schedule of sitting days, setting out when specific topics are to be discussed, will be published on the inquiry website and will be updated regularly. The website will also include the link to watch proceedings live via YouTube. Recordings of previous sessions of the inquiry will be made available to view within two working days.

Capacity at the Town Hall will be extremely limited due to the number of formal participants in the inquiry. Those who have registered with the programme officer to speak at the inquiry will either do so in person at the Town Hall or virtually via Microsoft Teams.

With public seating limited, members of the public not participating in the inquiry but interested in following proceedings are encouraged to watch it online and not attend in person.

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Anyone wishing to attend will need to book in advance by contacting the programme officer, Joanna Vincent, on 07483 133975 or emailing joanna.vincent@gateleyhamer.com.

Covid-safe arrangements will be in place at the Town Hall and, while the wearing of face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement, all those in the inquiry room will be encouraged to do so.

Following the inquiry, the planning inspectors will take some time to consider all the evidence that was presented before making their final decision by issuing a formal decision letter. This is likely to be a number of weeks after the close of the inquiry.

An artist's impression of Bristol Airport. Picture: Bristol Airport

An artist's impression of Bristol Airport. Picture: Bristol Airport - Credit: Bristol Airport

What do opponents say?

The Stop Bristol Airport Expansion Campaign (SBAEx) has published the reasons why it believes the airport should not be allowed to grow. SBAEx says the airport, owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan fund, 'should not put short-term financial profit for the fund’s shareholders over environmental concerns that will affect regional communities first, and eventually the entire planet'.

A SBAEx spokesman said: "As well as the huge increase in aircraft emissions at a time when record temperatures are being set almost daily, the expansion would result in some 9,500 extra traffic movements per day in North Somerset’s predominantly rural roads.

"These would result in associated noise, road congestion, litter, pollution and disruption for local communities – as well as the nuisance caused by unauthorised and illegal parking sites and by travellers leaving their vehicles at the side of residential roads, in laybys and lanes to avoid paying car park charges.

"Other serious considerations include the damaging effects of aircraft noise on mental health, the disruption of sleep caused by night flights, and disruption to children's learning constantly interrupted by external noise."

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) will be represented legally by barrister Estelle Dehon and have acquired the expert evidence from three key witnesses who will present evidence on climate change, the problems associated with immediate sustainable aviation and how the proposed expansion plans transgress UK, EU and Internationally agreed carbon reduction targets. 

A BAAN spokesman said: "The evidence put forward aims to dispel any notion that the expansion of Bristol Airport is beneficial to the local communities as well as our beleaguered planet. 

"It is abundantly clear that we need to be drastically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions at every opportunity if we are to have a healthy and life sustaining planet. The expansion of Bristol Airport along with desires to grow the aviation industry are just not compatible with the environmental science that we are witnessing right now.   

"BAAN have the ambitious intention to report daily on proceedings so we want our website to  be the 'go to' resource in finding out what evidence was put forward for and against the airport expansion."

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