Bristol Airport expansion appeal set for High Court

BAAN high court appeal

Bristol Airport Action Network campaigners have lodged an appeal to the High Court on the decision to allow Bristol Airport's expansion. - Credit: BAAN

A campaign group has lodged an appeal to the High Court against the ruling to allow Bristol Airport's expansion.

The Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) aims to quash plans for the airport to increase its annual passengers from 10 million to 12 million.

North Somerset Council had initially rejected the airport's proposal in February 2020 before the Planning Inspectorate overruled and granted permission last month.

MORE: Campaigners 'betrayed' by Bristol Airport expansion decision

BAAN's coordinators claim solicitors acting on their behalf will today (March 15) be issuing papers to the High Court for a Statutory Appeal under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

The group believes a number of errors were made in the decision to grant permission, including the 'incorrect interpretation of local planning strategies and aviation policies; ignoring the importance of local carbon budgets and not adequately considering the extra non-carbon emissions that would be caused by the expansion.'

XR Youth, Bristol Airport, March 2022. Photo credit: Simon Holliday / simonholliday.com

An XR Youth group protested the expansion on March 5. - Credit: Simon Holliday / simonholliday.c

BAAN campaigner, Stephen Clarke claims: "This decision is so damaging for the local people and the climate that it simply cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.

"By supporting Bristol Airport's arguments, the inspectors have effectively agreed that the UK Government has policies which actually support airport expansion, despite the climate and ecological crisis and the UK’s legal obligation to reach net-zero by 2050.

Most Read

"The inspector's report dismissed the enormous increase of carbon emissions as an issue, stating that the ‘climate was neutral in the planning balance’.

"In this one sentence, they have effectively ignored expert climate change science and the overwhelming extra carbon emissions caused by the expansion.

"They also decided to completely ignore the parts of the North Somerset core local strategy that deals with climate change issues as well as the dozens of local residents who spoke passionately on the issue at the inquiry.”

Bristol airport sign

Bristol Airport dismisses claims that residents were not consulted on the decision. - Credit: Bristol Airport

More than 11,000 comments were left by residents on the proposal's original planning website - a large portion of which objected to the expansion.

Previously, Bristol Airport told the Mercury and Times that claims that nearby residents were not consulted on the changes and that reaching its net-zero goal was not possible were unfounded.

A spokesperson stated: "During the planning process we consulted extensively with local communities and a wide range of stakeholders, this feedback guided our phased approach to growth.

"We have listened to local views and accepted the challenge of climate change and have made significant changes to our business, which includes solar power, renewable energy and many more initiatives.

"We achieved carbon neutrality status in 2021 and commit to net-zero airport operations by 2030."

The spokesperson added: “Developing Bristol Airport in a sustainable way will enable more people from the South West to ‘fly local’, reducing the number of road journeys to and from London airports - numbering 8 million a year pre-pandemic."

The airport has since added that it is aware of BAAN's appeal, stating: "We have been made aware of BAAN CC's intention to challenge the recent Independent Planning Inspectors' decision but as we have received no indication of the grounds of any challenge, we are unable to comment further.”

Bristol Airport protests

Weston XR campaigning against Bristol Airport's expansion plans. - Credit: Sally Low

More members of BAAN have cited North Somerset Council's declaration of a climate emergency in 2019, and continued resistance to the expansion, as a reflection of the public's opinion on the matter.

Tarisha Finnegan-Clarke, from BAAN’s coordinating committee, said: "This airport expansion is not wanted; nor is it needed.

"We contest this outrageous decision on behalf of the local residents whose lives are already blighted by the airport and the many parish, town and city councils that have declared climate emergencies and have written statements of opposition throughout the process.

"In addition, campaigners are fearful that the growth of Bristol Airport puts the future of today’s youth in jeopardy.

"The existing cap of 10 million passengers per year allows for some growth; pushing for 2 million more is just about profit at any cost. 

"The Inspector’s decision has amplified a growing lack of trust in democratic processes as this decision has all but rendered local democracy meaningless."

The group's staunch opposition to the expansion has garnered financial support with more than £20,000 being crowdfunded to help with its legal battle.