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Stop Bristol Airport Expansion! (SBAE) is an alliance comprised of the following groups:

cpreBristol Friends of the Earth

Read more about the SBAE alliance

All content © Stop Bristol Airport Expansion, 2009.


100 months

"Setting the Record Straight"

The aim of this document is to give an alternative view of expansion at Bristol International Airport. The points below are the same ones addressed by BIA in their ‘setting the record straight’ Q&A Sheet.


Dr Stephen Ladyman, Minister of State for Transport confirmed recently it is up to local councils to decide whether rapid expansion of airports is in the region’s interests. Stansted Airport has just had their planning application refused by Uttlesford Council on the grounds of climate change, insufficient infrastructure and an economic case not proven in light of the Stern Report. North Somerset Council can stop the expansion of Bristol International Airport as well.

Q Will the expansion of the terminal allow passengers numbers to grow beyond 9 million passengers per annum?

A BIA says that their expansion project will mean that overnight aircraft parking will become the factor that limits further growth above 9 million passengers per annum. We believe that if BIA can generate enough demand, they will increase numbers beyond 9 million as early as possible by reducing their reliance on airlines that base their aircraft at BIA.

Q Would it be possible to avoid the use of fields to the to the south of the airport for car parking if an airport hotel is not included in the master plan?

A BIA says that allocating some of the car parking space to a new hotel only loses 100 car parking spaces. We believe the space could be used for a multi-storey car park to avoid using green fields to the south of the site.

Q Will the hotel take trade away from existing bed and breakfasts and hotels?

A Yes, clearly it will. BIA has not recognised that the local market will grow to fill any gap and that this will help to share the wealth generated by the airport with local people (rather than with an airport company owned by Spanish and Australians)

Q Aren’t most of the people flying out of BIA using the airport for their holidays?

A BIA’s ‘setting the record straight’ document produces lots of confusing data but misses the key argument in the expansion debate which is that:

Q Is the growth of flights from BIA costing the region £60m a year?

A There has been no proper, in-depth analysis of the economic argument for BIA’s expansion. BIA dispute the figure of £60m but their own figure is not far off: a loss of £41m in 2004 and growing.

Q Is it true that the UK generates more flights than any other European country and a fifth of all passengers worldwide arrive or leave from UK airports?

A BIA challenges the figure of one fifth but accepts the fact that the UK generates more flights than any other European country. The need to move away from such reliance on flying is a national and global issue requiring major investment in technological developments and alternative infrastructure. Expanding airports to fuel further demand is a step in the wrong direction.

Q Does the present capacity of BIA already allow for all flying for holiday and educational purposes?

A This question is irrelevant. We have to face up to the need, firstly to control and then gradually to reduce activities that harm the climate. Preventing expansion is the first and most obvious step.

Q Please explain the increase in frequency of flights. It has been reported that there will be a flight every three and a half minutes overhead.

A BIA’s rebuttal is wonderfully convoluted. Let’s just stick with the facts: the Master Plan states that ‘the increase in air traffic equates to an average of between 5 and 6 additional movements per hour over the main operating hours of the airport.’ This increases the average number of movements to 17 per hour. You do the maths!

Q There are conflicting claims on aircraft noise. Will aircraft get quieter in the future?

A It will be pleasing for local residents when aircraft become quieter but, regardless of the speed of aircraft development, 6 more flights per hour equates to a great deal more noise.

Q Will there be increased light pollution?

A It is good to see that BIA will be using ways of minimising the impact of extra lighting but, as they admit, additional apron lighting is required and even the tightest of specifications for car parking produces additional light pollution.

Q Will the development have a negative effect on ecology?

A BIA’s plans for enhancing the overall biodiversity of their site seem like a good start. More worrying, of course, is the threat to biodiversity from climate change and CO2 emissions which will be nearly doubled within a few years, at a time when industry is needing to halve its emissions

Q Will the expanded car parks on the south side of the airport be visible from the Mendip Hill an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

A Already car parking can be seen from the Mendip Hills, especially on a bright day when the sun reflects off the cars. Noise can be heard from overhead aircraft and lighting is visible at night.

Q Will the airport expansion lead to the construction of new roads to the south and the north of the airport?

A The Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study has identified new routes from Weston super Mare and Bristol which would link to the airport. The expanded airport is one of the reasons for this proposal.

Q Is it true that many of the extra jobs created through airport expansion will be in low paid, menial jobs with anti-social hours? These jobs will be at or near the minimum wage.

A BIA’s Master Plan refers to the fact that the airport offers low rates of pay relative to similar opportunities and unattractive shift working. It recognises that some employers are deploying tailored schemes to meet the needs of foreign workers with an eye to obtaining inexpensive labour (paras 10.38 – 10.40 Economic Impact Study)

Q Is aviation subsidised through tax breaks?

A Yes, there is no tax on aviation fuel, no VAT on air tickets and some goods sold enjoy duty free status. The South West Regional Development Agency gave BIA £1.5 million pounds to help attract Continental Airlines to fly to Bristol. BIA does not pay anything at the moment to cover the cost of its pollution. The Government states in the White Paper 2003 ‘The Future of Air Transport’ that aviation must pay the external costs of its activities on society at large. In other words the price of air travel must reflect its environmental and social impacts. If the passenger pays, demand will reduce and expansion will not be needed.

Q Is air travel the least fuel efficient form of Travel?

A Fuel efficiency in aviation has improved steadily over recent decades and this is likely to continue. However, the benefits in efficiency are swamped by the increase in demand. Even the most ambitious efficiency targets quoted by the aviation sector will only offset 25% of the affect of a modest 5% growth in demand over the coming years (source: Hillman and Meyer). The big issue is to start to reduce growth in demand.

Q Is it true that aviation has much greater effect on global warming because of its effect on the upper atmosphere?

A There is widespread agreement on the fact that emissions have a particularly serious affect on the upper atmosphere but disagreement on the multiplier that should be used. It is likely that the IPCC will recommend a figure of 2 (i.e. emissions at high altitude have twice the adverse affect of similar emissions at sea level.)

Q Is aviation the biggest contributor to Climate Change?

A Aviation is the fastest growing contributor to climate change. The Stern report clarifies the absolute need to cut CO2 emission and there is no rational argument that should favour an industry that plans to double its emissions, as some type of special case.

Q Is it true that aviation’s growth will cancel out all other savings in carbon use?

A Yes, work from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research stated that ‘if the UK Government follows the scientific consensus that a 450ppm stabilisation level [of CO2] is required, then the aviation sector would exceed the carbon target for all sectors by 2050’. This means that schools, hospitals, businesses, industry and homes would not be able to release any emissions.

BIA seems to counter this unpleasant prediction by saying that market mechanisms such as carbon trading will limit this growth. We hope they are right and it is, of course, yet another strong reason not to expand the airport.

Q Will technology deliver significant improvements in aircraft efficiency and environmental impact?

A BIA states that, within 50 years, there is a prospect that environmental impact could be cut by more than the projected increase in air traffic. This means that they expect it to grow during this immensely sensitive period for the earth’s atmosphere. Policy has to recognise that economic growth cannot be pursued regardless of emissions and that moving to a low-carbon lifestyle is not contrary to the pursuit of improved quality of life for all populations.

Q Living next to BIA at 9 million passengers per annum will be like living near Luton Airport. What is it like living near Luton Airport?

A BIA’s response to this statement is very literal! Of course there are differences between Luton and Bristol. The key points are valid: expansion at Bristol means more noise, more traffic, more congestion and light pollution. It means a growth in emissions at a time when these need to be cut. It means a greater outflow of money from our region.

8th December 2006

Georgie Bigg North Somerset Branch Campaign to Protect Rural England
Jeremy Birch Bristol Friends of the Earth
Hilary Burn Parish Councils Airport Association

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