Bristol Airport will 'bounce back from pandemic' and expansion 'is still needed'
- Credit: Bristol Airport
The coronavirus pandemic has cut demand for flights in the short term, but Bristol Airport bosses say the airport 'still needs to expand'.
Some nine million passengers used the transport hub last year and it says the number could hit 12 million by 2030 – four years later than previously forecast – if the current cap of 10 million is lifted.
The airport has appealed North Somerset Council’s decision to reject its expansion bid and a four-week public inquiry will begin in July 2021.
New documents submitted by Bristol Airport ahead of the hearing reflect on the impact coronavirus is having on the aviation industry.
They say: “Early on during the pandemic, it was recognised that the virus would suppress demand for air travel in the short term, both due to Government restrictions on travel and also as a result of a likely economic downturn, that could delay the point at which 12 million passengers per annum would be reached.
“It was unclear how long the pandemic would last and what its severity would be; certainly, the scale of the second wave in Europe and further national restrictions could not have been anticipated.
"The rapid global spread of Covid-19 means that the specific impact on air travel in the UK and Europe is unprecedented.
“Our forecasts assume that the impact of Covid-19 is ultimately a short term issue, covering the next two to four years and that, over the period of the planning forecasts, more normal market conditions and drivers for growth will return.”
When its expansion plans were submitted, the airport expected to have a throughput of 12 million annual passengers by 2026.
Under the new modelling, the best case scenario would see that figure hit by 2027, but it could be as late as 2034.
The airport assumes it will reach 12million annual passengers by 2030.
The documents say there remains an 'acute need' to provide additional capacity at Bristol Airport, and failing to expand “would constrain investment at the airport, see economic activity displaced from the South West, act as a barrier to overseas investment and result in a reduction in regional connectivity.”
A Bristol Airport spokesman said: “As the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic it is essential that all regions of the country are given the opportunity to grow to their full potential and contribute to the national recovery effort.
“International trade and connectivity will become increasingly important as the UK completes its departure from the European Union – increasing aviation capacity is essential in delivering this goal.“
North Somerset Council will run a public consultation on the updated assessments.
The council refused planning permission for the airport’s expansion due to the impact on the environment and the health of local people.
Council leader Don Davies said last week: “A team of specialist consultants has been assembled to mount a robust defence of the council’s decision and a senior QC has already been appointed to lead the case.”
To view and comment on the updated information submitted by the airport go to www.n-somerset.gov.uk/airportappeal. Comments need to be submitted by January 6.