By Harry Mottram: Bathonian’s nearest airport at Lulsgate has been given the green light to expand allowing more people from the city to travel by air every year.
Four years ago, Bristol Airport put forward plans to increase its capacity to handle an extra two million passengers a year, up from 10 to 12 million. To do this the existing terminal would be expanded with extra floors, plus walkways to aid passengers connecting to their flights, a new multi storey carpark and changes to the access roads, taxiway lanes for planes and service yard areas. Also, restrictions on night flights would be eased and the Silver Zone carpark would be increased.
Although the plans will be welcomed by many of those who use the airport they have not been welcomed by an alliance of protestors. These include Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse, North Somerset Council, Bristol Airport Action Network, Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority, the Green Party and local residents in the area.
Dave Lees, CEO of Bristol Airport, said: “Bristol Airport welcomes the High Court Judge’s decision to dismiss the claim and uphold the planning permission to increase Bristol Airport’s capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers per annum. 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.”
His views are not shared Bath’s MP. Vera Hobhouse said: ““I join my Liberal Democrat colleagues on B&NES Council in strongly opposing the expansion of Bristol Airport. Strong public opinion on the airport’s expansion extends well beyond Bath to our wider region. With the need to urgently act on the climate emergency growing ever stronger, airport expansion is not the way forward. The Leader of the House said she will be contacting the relevant Department to raise the concerns of my constituents over the matter. It is not just good enough for the Government to listen to the concerns of my constituents, they must act on them. It is my constituents’ lives who will be impacted yet their voices are the ones being ignored. This decision is a gross denial of their democratic rights.”
The airport began life 1927 as a flying club before being used as an RAF base in the war. After 1945 it reverted to being a club base for light aircraft and gliders before becoming Bristol Lulsgate Airport in 1957. Since then, it has been slowly upgraded from an annual passenger count of 33,000 to today’s millions. Initially it was owned by the Council but became a public limited company in 1987 resulting in a further upgrading – and an end to the A38 traffic crossing the runway in between flights.
Despite the alliance of opposition the airport is increasingly popular with passengers often arriving by bus and coach from Bristol and even Cornwall and South Wales. At just 19 miles from Bath clearly many in the city will privately welcome the expansion if it means more flights to more destinations.