Cllr Sarah Warren (Lib Dem, Bathavon North), Cabinet Member for the Climate Emergency was a guest speaker at a key planning committee meeting held last night at Weston-super-Mare to decide whether to go ahead with the proposals to expand Bristol Airport. North Somerset Council ultimately rejected the plans in an 18-7 decision.
Cllr Warren has been a vocal critic of the plan to increase Bristol Airport's capacity, arguing that it is wholly incompatible with the ongoing climate emergency. Indeed, the aviation industry is the fastest-growing contributor to rising global carbon emissions. It was announced last June that Cllr Warren and fellow Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Economic Development, Cllr Tim Ball would visit their counterparts on North Somerset Council to express their concerns over the airport's proposals.
Liberal Democrats in B&NES have long been cautious of the adverse effects that Bristol Airport expansion would have on our communities in North East Somerset, with increased car traffic expected through villages on the way to the airport causing greater congestion and higher levels of dangerous air pollution. This goes against our long-term ambition to reduce traffic in residential areas and build infrastructure for more environmentally sustainable forms of travel.
Cllr Warren was invited to attend North Somerset's planning committee meeting last night to make the case against expanding Bristol Airport. This was her speech in full:
In March 2019, B&NES Council voted to declare a climate emergency by an overwhelming, cross-party majority, aiming for carbon neutrality as a district by 2030, and explicitly opposing expansion of Bristol Airport. North Somerset declared an emergency the month before us, last February, that summery month of T-shirts, record ice cream sales, and fires on Saddleworth Moor.
Others will explain the reasons why the airport’s pretensions to carbon neutrality are greenwash, but as Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, I have to emphasise that expansion of an airport is incompatible with a declaration of climate or ecological emergency. If this expansion goes ahead, it renders everything that North Somerset does to reduce its emissions redundant. Every ton of carbon saved, is simply taken up by the airport.
I have been asked to talk about the impact of traffic on the villages of Bath and North East Somerset. Bristol is the largest UK airport without rail or light rail. Its mode share of public transport is a measly 13% and falling, the lowest of all UK airports of similar or larger size. Most employees travel by car, as there are few towns nearby. Most passengers travel by car or taxi. The near total absence of public transport across the Chew Valley from the south and east means that the communities of Chew Magna, Pensford, Chelwood, Chew Stoke, as well as Whitchurch Village, and the North Somerset villages of Wraxall and Failand, are all blighted by airport traffic, shining headlights into bedrooms at all times of the night, and making children’s journeys to school dangerous.
The additional 4850 parking spaces are the key economic driver of this application, meaning uncontrolled growth in traffic, with corresponding impact on a highway network already at capacity. The provision of these spaces will, of course, undermine any public transport improvements that may be planned.
An airport bus route passes through Newbridge, Bath, Corston, and Keynsham, and locals have to contend with cars abandoned for weeks at a time by holiday-makers. In Chew Valley villages, closer to the airport, the exorbitant charges for pick up and drop off at the airport mean cars wait with idling engines for news of loved-ones’ arrival.
Night flights will increase, so villagers of Pensford, Corston, Queen Charlton, Chewton Keynsham, Compton Dando, Burnett – and even residents of Bath, Radstock, Wellow and Keynsham - will not sleep easy, increasingly disturbed by noise from flight paths bringing planes low over B&NES.
Haven’t the Bristol Airport, or their owners, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension fund, heard? There is a climate emergency! This proposal is Business As Usual with a capital B. There can be no more business as usual. I appeal to you, councillors, follow the lead of your colleagues in Uttlesford last month, and take the right decision. Reject this application, which is incompatible with a declaration of climate emergency.
What happens next?
Even though Councillors on North Somerset Council have rejected the proposals to expand Bristol Airport, the government could still reverse their decision on appeal. Liberal Democrats in Bath and North East Somerset feel strongly that the government should respect the decision taken locally and go further in supporting our party's policy, announced by Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, for a moratorium on all airport expansion until viable technologies are made available for low carbon, cost effective air travel.
Read more about what local Lib Dems are doing to improve our communities in Bath and North East Somerset by selecting a tile below.