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More transport funding, fewer night flights and limits to Green Belt development at heart of revised proposals
Bristol International Airport (BIA) will increase its funding of local transport schemes, further improve public transport, lower the number of night flights permitted and limit development in the Green Belt as part of additional conditions and obligations proposed to North Somerset Council today (17 December 2009). Earlier this year, BIA submitted a planning application for the development and enhancement of facilities to enable the airport to handle 10 million passengers per annum (mppa) by 2019/20. This application included an extensive range of mitigation measures addressing concerns raised during BIA’s public consultation on the development plans. The proposals for additional conditions and obligations announced today address the key issues raised during North Somerset’s subsequent consultation process and by three of the Council’s area planning committees which met in October to discuss BIA’s application. The new measures focus on transport, night flying and development in the Green Belt. Robert Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer of Bristol International Airport, said: “The development plans have received positive support, acknowledging the airport’s role as an important provider of employment, business connectivity and inbound tourism. However, it is clear that concerns still exist in some areas. “We have listened to the views expressed and responded positively with further measures to provide reassurance on the key concerns identified.
“These additional measures are significant and substantial. They demonstrate our commitment to working with the Council to find a balanced solution which can be agreed locally.” Under the terms of the additional proposals, BIA’s contribution to the Bus Rapid Transit scheme and the South Bristol Link – both of which will help alleviate congestion on local roads – would rise from £3 million to £5.4 million. This represents almost one third of the funding required from local sources. Payment would be structured to include contributions ahead of construction to help ensure the successful delivery of these projects. Public transport links to Weston-super-Mare would also be strengthened under the new proposals, with BIA contributing up to £100,000 per annum towards the cost of operating an enhanced, hourly 121 bus service, ahead of the introduction of a ‘Weston Flyer’ express coach when passenger numbers reach 8 mppa. This service would operate between Weston town centre, Weston railway station and Worle, with frequency increased to every half hour at 10 mppa. Although BIA’s initial application minimised development in the Green Belt by focusing on the north side of the airport site, further reassurances are provided in today’s additional proposals. Under a new planning condition, the proposed seasonal overflow car park to the south of the airport would be developed in two phases and permitted only if set passenger milestones are reached. To further allay concerns raised over noise from night flying, BIA has offered to reduce the cap on night aircraft movements put forward in the original planning application from 4,500 to 4,000. In addition, a summer limit of 3,000 movements and a winter limit of 1,000 movements have also been proposed. Today’s proposals are in addition to a range of controls and mitigation measures contained in the planning application submitted in June, which included several design modifications resulting from public consultation (for example, the height of the proposed multi-storey car park was lowered in response to concerns raised by local residents). There are strict controls and conditions relating to the noise environment, air quality, water quality, nature conservation, biodiversity and cultural heritage. Environmental mitigation measures proposed also include the setting up of an Airport Environmental Improvement Fund with BIA contributing £100,000 per year, with this figure increasing in line with passenger numbers. This will provide an on-going source of funds for local projects to improve roads, reduce noise and enhance the local environment. The proposed contributions to improve transport and the environment now total in the order of £10 million over 15 years. In addition, the development plans include construction of a £5 million public transport interchange. This will be located adjacent to the terminal building and linked to it by a covered pedestrian link bridge, and is central to BIA’s strategy to increase public transport usage by passengers to 15 per cent from the current 10 per cent. An expanded airport will deliver significant employment and economic benefits to North Somerset and the South West region. Over 3,500 jobs will be created by the development, with a Skills and Employment Plan created to maximise employment benefits for the local community around the airport, as well as Weston-super-Mare and South Bristol. The recently published Transport Select Committee report into the future of aviation recognised the important role played by regional airports such as BIA in economic development, serving local business markets and facilitating inward investment. BIA’s plans would contribute total additional income of between £1.9 billion and £2.0 billion to the South West region to 2019/20. This includes income generated from the airport’s activities, increased spending by overseas visitors using Bristol International and savings in travel time and costs as a result of business and leisure passengers being able to fly from their local regional airport. The development would deliver new routes and increased frequencies for business and leisure passengers in the South West, with potential destinations including Zurich, Munich, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Washington, Atlanta, Toronto, Istanbul and Singapore. The Committee on Climate Change also reported recently, publishing its recommendations on meeting UK aviation targets for reduced emissions. The report concluded that airport capacity could grow by 60 per cent nationally while still enabling emissions from aviation to return to 2005 levels by 2050. Growth at BIA was factored into the Committee’s ‘likely scenario’ model. The report also made clear that it was not the remit of the Committee to advise on where growth in airport capacity should occur. In response to both reports, Sustainable Aviation (a coalition of UK airlines, aerospace manufacturers, air navigation providers and airports, including BIA) reaffirmed its confidence that the 2050 target can be met, demonstrating that development of Bristol International can take place in the context of overall emissions reductions. Robert Sinclair continued: “With these additional proposals on the table, we now sincerely hope that a positive outcome can be achieved when the application is determined in February next year.”
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