Do we need a debate about the expansion of Bristol airport?

Given the climate emergency, the expansion of Bristol airport is proving to be controversial. At the full council meeting of Bristol City Council on 17 December there was insufficient time to debate the matter (a majority of councillors voted against extending the meeting by 15 minutes to allow a Green motion about airport expansion to be debated).

TRESA would welcome a debate at full council to enable the benefits and disadvantages of the airport expansion to be discussed.

In the meantime, Mayor Marvin Rees has pointed out that the decision will ultimately be made by North Somerset council. However, the Mayor and Cllr Kye Dudd submitted a letter on 1st April 2019 to North Somerset council broadly supporting the expansion. The text of the letter is set out in full below.

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Dear Sir/Madam

Bristol Airport Planning Application: Development to 12mppa (18/P/5118/OUT)

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Bristol Airport’s outline planning application for the development of Bristol Airport, to enable an increase from 10 million to 12 million passengers a year. Bristol City Council supports the important role that Bristol Airport plays in connecting the West of England and the wider South West to global destinations.

We also recognise the positive impact that it has on supporting inclusive economic growth across the region. Expansion of Bristol Airport will provide a significant boost to the local economy, including creating many new jobs accessible from South Bristol and access international export markets.

The West of England’s Joint Spatial Plan, which is currently under examination, identifies Bristol Airport as a key strategic infrastructure employment location which will contribute to the region’s delivery of 82,500 additional jobs by 2036 and ensure continued economic growth. Work to support the Joint Spatial Plan has identified the relatively poor surface access that Bristol Airport has, with no direct motorway or rail connections. This results in traffic using different local routes to access the Airport. It is essential that the airport works with the region on identifying the appropriate improvements in connectivity to support its continued growth.

The City Council’s Transport Development Management team has considered the detailed proposals set out in the outline planning application and appraised the supporting Transport Assessment. I attach a note setting out some detailed comments on the transport implications of the proposals which I hope you will consider in your determination of the application.

Good connectivity between Bristol and the airport is essential to maximise economic benefits and ensure that jobs are accessible to those that need them. Bristol Airport is an important employment centre for the communities of South Bristol and beyond and we need to ensure that job opportunities are accessible to deprived communities.

The airport currently employs nearly 4,000 people on site, a substantial proportion of which are from Bristol and in particular south Bristol. Within the West of England, through trade and knock on impacts, the airport supports a further 5,850 indirect and induced jobs and generates £675m of Gross Value Added (GVA). The GVA figure is estimated to increase to more than £2.9bn across the wider region by the 2030s based on forecast demand for air travel.

Bristol airport is popular for leisure trips but as part of the proposed expansion the airport has plans to expand the number of destinations that would primarily be for business purposes, rather than leisure. The region’s international connectivity is an attractive quality for businesses which decide to base themselves here, and also benefits those already here with access to international markets and investment.

Separately to this application, we would encourage the provision of new office or industrial and warehousing space near the airport development area, which will benefit growing SMEs in South Bristol which currently have limited options for expansion. In supporting inclusive growth we encourage Bristol Airport to work with local authorities’ skill and employability services, job brokerage and apprenticeships schemes, to assist job seekers in disadvantaged areas of south Bristol and the wider city. In supporting job creation through expansion, we would encourage Bristol Airport and their partner organisations to become accredited living wage employers.

It is important that expansion is managed in a responsible and sustainable way. Aviation contributes 2% of all global carbon emissions, and as a city we take climate change incredibly seriously. We welcome the airport’s Environmental Impact Assessment of their expansion plans, to consider any environmental effects. Bristol Airport aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, and as part of its emerging Sustainable Growth Strategy it has received Stage 1 Carbon Accreditation from the independent Airports Council International.

By improving the services it can offer, Bristol Airport can reduce traffic forced to travel to larger airports for other flights. Every year almost 8 million passengers from the south west fly from London Airports, by expanding how many passengers the airport can handle it will mean far fewer long car journeys from the south west to London airports.

Whilst this application covers expansion up to 12 million passengers per annum, we are aware that the airport has aspirations to continue to expand up to 20 million passengers per annum. We are keen to continue to work with Bristol Airport and North Somerset Council on measures to improve connectivity and maximise economic benefits as future growth plans come forward. As you are aware, we are currently exploring potential options for a mass transit system in the West of England, including a potential route to the airport, and it is essential that the airport works with the West of England councils and other stakeholders as proposals develop.

I hope that these comments are helpful.

Yours sincerely

Marvin Rees Mayor of Bristol
Kye Dudd Cabinet member, Transport Bristol