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Bristol International has criticised North Somerset Council’s decision to reject the airport’s plans to build a passenger walkway connecting aircraft stands to the terminal building. The decision, taken by the South Area Committee at a meeting yesterday (14th May) went against expert advice from the Council’s own planning officers, who had deemed the plans ‘permitted development’ under part 18 of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO).
Driven by changes in the mix of aircraft operating at Bristol International, the walkway was designed to drastically reduce the use of coaches at the airport. As fleets of older regional jets carrying a maximum of 50 passengers have been replaced by modern, more fuel-efficient short-haul aircraft, with more seats, transferring passengers to and from flights by coach has become less efficient, and generates emissions which could be eradicated by creating a covered link from the terminal.
The proposed walkway would have significantly reduced the use of coaches between aircraft and the terminal building, therefore cutting emissions from the airport’s ground operations. Its energy efficient design meets the latest environmental standards, and if constructed it would have acted as a barrier shielding properties to the north of the airport from ground noise.
The walkway was also expected to deliver customer service benefits, with airlines better able to achieve efficient turnarounds, with resulting improvements to punctuality. Priority boarding systems could also have been implemented more effectively.
The plans rejected by North Somerset Council also include a dedicated area for the comfortable transfer of passengers of reduced mobility to and from aircraft, including two passenger lifts and a special assistance desk.
Bristol International’s argument, supported by legal opinion and the Council’s own planning officers, is that the walkway is an operational building required for boarding passengers and not an extension to the departure lounge. This is demonstrated by the fact that no retail or catering facilities are included in the plans, and no seating is included over and above the minimum required for passengers with reduced mobility.
Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive of Bristol International Airport said:
“This is a green ‘own goal’ by North Somerset Council. It seems they have listened to the voice of a minority interest group and ignored the needs of the thousands of passengers using Bristol International every day, not to mention the airlines that bring jobs to this area and provide local businesses with links to markets and suppliers across the world.
“We acknowledge that the airport has impacts on its neighbours, and we work hard to control and mitigate these in consultation with local residents, but the fact is that the proposed walkway would have overwhelmingly positive effects. If facts and common sense are ignored by our elected representatives we run the risk of losing facilities which are the envy of other regions.”
Bristol International will review the North Somerset Council decision with its advisers before taking the matter further. In addition, it will continue working towards the submission of a full planning application, based on the framework outlined in its 2006 Master Plan. It is anticipated that an application will be submitted to North Somerset Council later in 2008, and the airport will continue to keep all stakeholders (including local residents in neighbouring communities) informed through the Airport Consultative Committee.
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