Bristol Airport expansion to go ahead after protestors lose High Court battle to halt it

January 31, 2023

The High Court has dismissed the legal challenge brought against the Planning Inspectorate’s permission for Bristol Airport’s expansion.

The Planning Inspectorate decided last February to allow the airport to increase its annual limit on passengers from 10m to 12m after North Somerset Council rejected the plan, which includes major investment in the existing terminal building, parking facilities and public transport links, on environmental grounds. 

That decision was challenged in the High Court last year but dismissed by Lord Justice Lane, who heard the case.

Bristol Airport CEO Dave Lees, pictured below, said: “Bristol Airport welcomes the High Court judge’s decision to dismiss the claim and uphold the planning permission.

“The decision is excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create up to 5,000 new jobs, deliver more international destinations for the South West and South Wales, and invest hundreds of millions of pounds improving the customer experience.

“We will do this while working towards our ambitious target of net zero carbon operations by 2030. We look forward to working with stakeholders and the community to deliver our vision to be everyone’s favourite airport.” 

Bristol Airport’s Canadian owner Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan claims expanded capacity will create 800 jobs at the airport and up to a further 5,000 regionally, adding an estimated £430m to the South West’s economy.

Anti-expansion umbrella group Bristol Airport Action Network, which brought the High Court case, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling but said it was planning to challenge it. 

It argues that the expansion would be damaging for local people and the environment, with increases in road traffic, noise and air pollution and what it called an “inevitable rise in carbon emissions”.

The airport’s plans were backed by regional business groups such as the CBI and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) but opposed by Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset councils and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). 

Many of the region’s MPs also opposed the expansion, with Bath MP Wera Hobhouse calling it at the time “a bleak day for our planet”. 

Metro Mayor Dan Norris, pictured right, who leads WECA, laid the blame firmly at the door of ministers.

“The deep concerns of local people and the decisions of local politicians have come into head-on collision with national government policy that is not fit for purpose, he said.

“For all their warm words this decision shows the government is not serious about the climate emergency.

“Lord Justice Lane confirmed today that the expansion will impact the environment but, as we know, government policy gives no consideration to the combined impact of airport emissions.

“This must change. We are all seeing the devastating effects of climate change with floods in Keynsham a few weeks ago and record-breaking temperatures this summer. So many plants and animals are under threat of being lost for ever.”

However, the airport – which has made the fastest recovery from the pandemic of any in the UK – said expanded capacity would allow it to take the pressure of London’s congested airports by exploring new direct links to Europe and further afield.

It said as well as providing economic links for the region, these would remove some of the millions of car journeys made from the South West and South Wales to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted each year.

It also claims it is putting sustainability at the heart of its expansion proposals, working with partners in the region to accelerate the development of zero emission flights.



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