The system is rigged…

Image from The Bristol Activist

On Tuesday 31st January, Lord Justice Lane dismissed the appeal of Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) and ruled that the proposed expansion of the capacity of Bristol Airport from 10 million passengers a year up to 12 million passengers can go ahead. This is how the reaction to Lane’s ruling was covered in some depth by The Bristol Activist: Plane wrong: Bristol Airport expansion upheld in blow to campaigners 31.1.23. We recommend that you read this coverage in full as there’s a lot of useful background information on the campaign against the expansion. Below is a statement from BAAN:

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We are extremely disappointed but defiant and vow to fight on after hearing the result of the recent High Court action that approved Bristol Airport continuing with its expansion plans. In his decision, Lord Justice Lane referenced the stark warning from the UN that humanity faces a Code Red for Humanity when it comes to the climate emergency, yet he still then went ahead and gave a green light for the airport to expand its capacity to handle 12 million passengers per annum (ppa). This decision will result in hugely increased emissions of carbon.

The judge echoed the agreed view of all parties involved that if the expansion went ahead ‘the climate change position would be worsened.’ Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) intends to appeal this decision because the impacts on local people and the environment are so serious

There is to be a rally on College Green, Central Bristol at 12 noon on Saturday 4th February 2023 to give local people the opportunity to express their views on the decision.

Tarisha Finnegan-Clarke from BAAN says, “It beggars belief that our appeal was rejected. It raises the question regarding the ability of the law to protect its citizens from the effects of accelerating climate chaos. The planning system is not responding to the climate emergency that we are facing. It is clearly outdated, outmoded and not fit for purpose and this now looks like it is by design.”

Stephen Clarke also from BAAN says, “The Government has policies in place which are designed to encourage the growth of airports and the number of people wanting to fly. This shows a total disregard for the climate emergency we are in.

In addition, this case shows that no one is taking responsibility for the extra carbon emissions from the 2 million additional passengers because they will not have been taken into account at any stage of the process either locally or nationally. The Planning Inspectors who presided over the Inquiry stated that the responsibility lay with national Government however the Secretary of State has chosen not to consider the impact of the additional carbon; either at Bristol or other regional airport.

The end result of this decision is that the overwhelming voices of opposition of local people and their elected representatives have been ignored. This is despite the chaos that will be caused locally through extra traffic congestion, noise and air pollution and the fact that the airport is already the biggest carbon emitter in the region.”

Richard Baxter from BAAN says, “We are well aware that the airport has recently declared its ambition to further expand to 20 million passengers per annum. This just shows that the airport is intent on generating profits at the expense of local people and the environment. Expert evidence given at the Planning Inquiry proved that the estimates for jobs and economic growth were vastly overestimated by the airport as well as debunking the technological developments to decarbonise the industry that will not be commercially available for decades.”

Jackie Head is also a member of BAAN who lives in the Chew Valley. She says, “The decision is devastating and will take a while to process but one thing that is clear is this: If this is right in law then our laws are wrong. What use are these laws if they cannot protect future life on this planet? I know we will regroup and fight on. Bristol Airport needs to know that we are playing the long game and will not stop until justice and fairness in aviation are achieved.”

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For the record, this post explains in some detail our objections to the expansion of the capacity of the airport: Why it has to be no go for Bristol Airport expansion 20.10.22. Rather than re-hash all of the arguments here, we would urge you to read the post. For a deeper, more philosophical look at why we think we’re on the wrong trajectory when it comes to perpetual growth on a finite planet, we recommend you read this post we put up recently: Complexity, collapse and radical change 23.1.23.

Call us cynical but if we’re being honest, we weren’t in the least bit surprised by Lane ruling against BAAN’s appeal and effectively giving the green light for the expansion of the capacity of the airport. Yes, we’re fully aware that every local and regional authority in the region came out against the proposed expansion because they could see the problems it will create with increased traffic, air pollution and the like. We’re also fully aware that the number of objections to the expansion considerably outnumbered the comments in support. We’ve seen the bound volumes containing the objections and those containing comments in support stacked side by side and the difference is quite staggering.

At the end of the day, when it comes to corporate interests versus those of the populace, it’s no surprise that the corporations and the banks are the ones who win out. That’s because the system is rigged to ensure that they win out. It’s their system to serve their interests and the pretence of democracy that we’re offered is just that…a pretence and nothing more. That pretence can clearly be seen with the ‘consultation’ exercises on major infrastructure projects where you’re allowed to participate in tinkering around the edges but in no way are you allowed to use the ‘consultation’ to question the actual need for the project under consideration.

That being allowed to tinker around the edges was something we endured with the ‘consultations’ into the Lower Thames River when we were living back in Thurrock. This is a write up of our experience of one of these ‘consultations’: Bogged down in details… 19.8.21. A process that’s still ongoing: Highways agency releases new ‘fly-through’ of Lower Thames Crossing route and resdients are invited to register to make their comments to Planning Inspectorate 9.1.23. Although the ‘consultation’ process is still ongoing, this hasn’t stopped National Highways (formerly known as Highways England) from awarding a £1.2 billion contract to Balfour Beatty for the construction of roads and junctions related to the crossing: National Highways awards £1.2 billion crossing contract despite project not yet having approval 23.1.23. Awarding this contract is a pretty clear signal that despite considerable local opposition, National Highways think they have this one in the bag and that as far as they’re concerned, the ‘consultations’ are pretty much for show purposes only.

Returning to Lane’s ruling that effectively allows the expansion of the capacity of Bristol Airport, we understand that BAAN intend to appeal it. While some may question whether it’s still worth continuing down an expensive and all consuming legal route, it should be pointed out that doing so is a delaying tactic. It’s a legal, albeit expensive way of lobbing a spanner into the works. On that basis, we respect and support BAAN’s decision to have another attempt at going down the legal route. However, there’s the question of actually being able to secure another hearing and what pressure will be getting applied behind the scenes to frustrate BAAN’s attempt to do this. Bear in mind that as we’ve previously mentioned, the system is rigged.

When the system is rigged against you, at some point the discussion has to turn to how we get rid of that system and replace it with one that’s more equitable, genuinely sustainable and where power lies with the people at the grassroots in their communities. There’s only so much going down the legal route or making demands

on governments who are the servants of the corporations and the banks before the realisation dawns that something a lot more radical is required.

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