North Somerset Council will not appeal Bristol Airport expansion

Bristol airport sign

North Somerset Council confirmed 'with a heavy heart' that it would not legally challenge the airport's expansion. - Credit: Bristol Airport

North Somerset Council has decided 'with a heavy heart' not to legally challenge the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to allow Bristol Airport's expansion.

The authority had initially rejected plans for the airport to increase its passenger capacity from 10 million to 12 million per year.

XR Youth Bristol Airport protest

Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol protested Bristol Airport's expansion plans. - Credit: Simon Holliday / simonholliday.c

Council leader, Don Davies explained that, after reviewing the inspectorate's reasoning, it has been decided that pursuing a legal battle would incur significant risk and costs.

Cllr Davies said: "A legal challenge through the High Court can only be successful if the inspectors can be shown to have erred in law,

 "Unfortunately, our disagreement with the inspectors' conclusions on the planning merits is not a relevant ground for challenge. 

"The legal advice we have had is that pursuing a challenge would carry 'a high level of risk'.

"Not only would it incur significant further costs but, even if successful and the inspectors' decision was quashed, it is highly likely that on redetermination planning permission would simply be granted again. 

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"Therefore sadly we have reluctantly accepted the legal advice we have been given and with very heavy hearts have concluded not to take the case to court."

The council had previously cited concerns around how an expansion would impact the area's environment and traffic build-up.

Its leader added: "We are still awaiting the inspectors' decision on the airport's application for their appeal costs to be paid by the council.

"We cannot justify risking more public money on a process that is unlikely to change anything.

"We remain committed to tackling the climate emergency and, rest assured, will be working hard to hold the airport to account to deliver their promises and planning commitments to reducing the carbon impact of the airport operation, especially around non-car travel to the airport, and the promises of the airline industry to decarbonise."

Dave Lees, left, and Liam Fox MP, right, both back calls for Covid-19 testing at Bristol Airport. Pi

Dave Lees, left, and Liam Fox MP, right, both back calls for Covid-19 testing at Bristol Airport. Picture taken pre-Covid. - Credit: Liam Fox MP

Bristol Airport chief executive, Dave Lees announced after the planning appeal was given the go-ahead by Government Planning Inspectors that he believed it would lead to thousands of jobs being created.

Mr Lees said: “Bristol Airport welcomes the decision of the Planning Inspectorate.

"The decision is excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create thousands of new jobs in the years ahead and provide more choice for our customers, supporting inbound tourism, and reducing the millions of road journeys made to London airports each year.

"We will now push ahead with our multi-million-pound plans for net-zero operations by 2030 and look forward to working with stakeholders and the community to deliver sustainable growth.”

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

However, the airport is likely to face legal opposition elsewhere with campaign group Bristol Airport Action Group confirming to the Mercury yesterday (March 15) that it would appeal the expansion verdict to the High Court.

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."