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Legal challenge to go-ahead for Bristol Airport expansion

Campaigners have filed a legal challenge to the plan to expand Bristol airport’s passenger capacity to 12 million passengers a year.

Posted on 18 March 2022

Bristol Airport Action Network Coordinating Committee (BAAN) has applied for permission to appeal the Government ruling that the airport can be expanded, after Bristol Airport Limited (BAL) appealed the decision by North Somerset Council to refuse planning permission for the airport expansion in February 2020.

BAAN is making its appeal under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Defendant is Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Its grounds of claim are that when Mr Gove’s department decided in February 2022 to overrule North Somerset Council’s refusal of permission for the airport expansion there was:

  • Error of law in interpreting North Somerset Council’s development plan policies relating to climate change and the environmental impacts of development at the airport. BAAN says the Government’s planning inspectors took the unlawful view that aviation emissions are not included within those policy requirements or failed to give adequate and intelligible reasons for their interpretation of the policies.
  • Error of law in interpreting national aviation policy “Beyond the Horizon: The Future of UK Aviation – Making Best Use” which leaves it up to local rather than national government to consider each case for airport expansion on its merits.
  • Error of law in the Panel finding it was required to “assume” that the Secretary of State would comply with his legal duty under the Climate Change Act 2008.
  • Error of law in discounting the impact of the airport expansion on local carbon budgets.
  • Errors of law concerning the climate impact of non-CO2 emissions.
  • Error of law in determining that replacement habitat for North Somerset and Mendip bats would lawfully mitigate for the loss of land used by the bats for foraging and roosting.

Stephen Clarke one of the coordinators of BAAN said:

“We are bringing this claim because, not only is it vital for residents and the climate that the Bristol Airport expansion is stopped, but there are up to 20 other regional airports with expansion plans waiting to use this decision as a precedent. It contains serious errors of law and cannot be left unchallenged.”

BAAN is represented by law firm Leigh Day. Planning law specialist Ricardo Gama said:

“This is an important case which will test whether national aviation policy allows planning decision-makers to discount greenhouse gas emissions when weighing up the benefits and harms of proposals for airport expansion.”

Ricardo Gama November 2021
Climate change Environment Judicial review Planning

Ricardo Gama

Ricardo specialises in environmental claims and planning law

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