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Expansion of Bristol Airport – Rejected by Councillors

Sophie Spencer
By Sophie Spencer
11th February 2020


North Somerset Planning Committee last night turned down Bristol Airport’s expansion planning application by a majority of 18 – 7, after nearly 5 hours of debate.

The decision has to be formally ratified by the full Council in due course but it is almost inconceivable that it won’t be.

David Worskett, Chair of CPRE Avonside, was one of a number of objectors speaking against the plans. David spoke about the Report commissioned by CPRE from independent consultancy, the New Economics Foundation, to review the economic evidence.

The CPRE/NEF report, which concluded that the Airport’s own claims of economic benefit did not stack up, was frequently referenced and was probably one of the most influential documents in the process.

The NEF concluded that:

  • The regional economic benefits for tourism have been significantly overstated, leading to an overestimation of tourism spending by 1/3. This is particularly important given that Bristol is primarily a “leisure travel” airport.
  • The airport consultant’s ‘Assessment’ assumes TOTAL DISPLACEMENT OF CARBON COSTS. It claims that all new flights from Bristol Airport would have otherwise left from another airport. Not having to include the economic costs of extra carbon of course significantly boosts the business case in favour of the airport expansion.
  • However, completely inconsistently, when addressing the potential economic benefit of the airport expansion, it assumes the opposite – ZERO DISPLACEMENT – i.e., that all flights would be newly created, bringing a significant increased boost to figures in favour of expansion.
  • These figures mean that claimed benefits for the West of England region have been overstated by almost 50%, and claimed benefits for the wider South-West region and Wales have been overstated by as much as 70%.

David Worskett, CPRE Avonside Chair, said

‘The airport’s consultants tried to rebut the arguments in the NEF paper. However, their “rebuttal” simply did not deal with these central criticisms. The economic benefits are significantly overstated while the disbenefits, applicable right across the West of England, but with the most serious consequences for our sub-region, were significantly understated.’


CPRE is England’s oldest Countryside Charity. It operates through a nationwide network of county and regional charities, supported by and supporting the national organisation.

The Report by the New Economics Foundation is available to download here

For further information please contact CPRE Avonside Director, Sophie Spencer on 07854 741130

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