Restricting more flights from airport would have 'profound implications for society', says lawyer

Bristol airport sign

Airport inquiry opens - Credit: Bristol Airport

Bristol Airport’s lawyer has claimed restricting people’s ability to fly would have 'profound implications for society', as a 40-day inquiry into its expansion opened. 

Michael Humphries said there was 'no doubt' the airport would hit the proposed new cap of 12 million passengers a year, up from the current limit of 10 million – the only question was when. 

He argued that the benefits of increased connectivity, prosperity and quality of life would outweigh the 'relatively modest' environmental impacts. 

PICTURES: Protestors take to the streets against Bristol Airport.

Mr Humphries told the first day of the inquiry on July 20: “The Government has made clear the importance it attaches to airports and their expansion. 

“The merits of Government policy are not a matter of debate for this local planning inquiry. 

“To artificially restrict the ability of individuals to fly by deliberately constraining capacity as some have suggested would have profound implications in a free society.

“The concerns of North Somerset Council and other parties about carbon emissions are unfounded. Indeed, much of the evidence simply seeks to mount an attack on government policy or speculate as to what future policy may be.” 

Extinction Rebellion protest outside Weston Town Hall.

Extinction Rebellion protest outside Weston Town Hall. - Credit: Simon Holliday

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Mr Humphries said 22,200 parking spaces was the minimum required to meet the demands of 12 million annual passengers, and will help to prevent unauthorised parking. 

Representing North Somerset Council – which rejected the expansion bid by 18 votes to seven last year – Reuben Taylor said airport bosses had overstated the benefits of the expansion and 'woefully underestimated' the impact on the green belt of thousands of more car parking spaces. 

He said: “Bristol Airport Ltd has failed to recognise the requirement to reduce the impacts on and maximise the benefits for local community affected by the operations. 

“It’s almost as if the mitigation has been brought forward as an afterthought.

“The result is a scheme which imposes significant environmental cost, particularly in relation to noise disturbance at night, on a local community which then does not obtain any material benefit.”

Mr Taylor said without an emissions cap for the aviation sector it is 'simply too soon' to allow the expansion to proceed, and dismissed the airport’s claims it will become net zero as 'a smokescreen' because it omits the emissions from aircraft. 

The inquiry, described as a 'marathon, not a sprint', continues. 

It is being broadcast on the council’s YouTube channel at