Green Party Councillors in North Somerset have said they are “distraught” after the Court of Appeal threw out an attempt to stop Bristol Airport expanding.

Bridget Petty, leader of the Greens on North Somerset Council said: “I am distraught and despairing as I hear the news that the court has decided to refuse an appeal.”

The dismissal marks the end of a long legal battle over the airport’s expansion.

The airport was originally denied planning permission for the expansion works by North Somerset Council in 2020, but appealed to the planning inspectorate who overturned that ruling.

Campaigners Bristol Airport Action Network (pictured) challenged the inspectorate’s decision in a High Court legal battle held in Bristol last year, with the central issue being whether emissions from the planes should count towards the airport’s environmental impact or not. 

But Mr Justice Lane ruled in favour of the airport, stating: “The main issue in this case is not whether emissions from any additional aircraft using Bristol Airport should be ignored. Plainly, they should not. Rather, it is about how and by whom those emissions should be addressed.”

Now an attempt to take it to the Court of Appeal has been thrown out for having no “real prospect of success and no other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to entertain an appeal.”

The appeal was refused on all grounds.

Ms Petty said: “We are facing headlines about catastrophic climate warming and still our courts and central government appear to want to maintain business as usual and growth at all costs. The lives of our children and society near and far will be impacted by their inactivity and lack of leadership.

“We know the airport has a significant impact on the lives of local people. That is why Green Party councillors voted no to expansion in 2020. Local democracy has been seriously eroded and this is another example of the powers that be having no real clue on how to address the climate emergency.”

The group say they are not going away.

Bristol Airport welcomed the decision, stating: “The decision is excellent news for our region’s economy, allowing us to create thousands of new jobs in the years ahead and open-up new direct links, and support inbound tourism.“

In a statement following the decision, BAAN said:

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) regret to report that they have been informed by the Court of Appeal that the court have refused to hear their appeal against the decision of the High Court to allow the expansion of Bristol Airport to go ahead. This means there is no longer any legal impediment to stop the airport ignoring the huge majority of local opinion and democratic institutions that have rejected the airport’s plans.

BAAN, led by a small group of active volunteers, have pulled together a coalition of concerned organisations, local councils and many thousands of local people, to resist the expansion. The decision has been considered by a local planning committee (who decisively rejected the plans) a ten week local planning inquiry and a High Court hearing. On the face of it, because the airport have ultimately been given permission, it may look like this campaign has been a waste of time and effort but in fact this could not be further from the truth.

BAAN recently organised an in-person meeting with fifteen other groups who are campaigning on this issue and we have agreed to work together to stop this impossible business-as-usual approach of continual expansion of aviation.

The focus for us as a group will be to bring the lessons learned in Bristol to the wider national campaign which we are currently involved in planning with other organisations. If you want to register to receive more information about that please email: [email protected] to register your interest.

Stephen Clarke one of the co-coordinators of BAAN states: I am naturally very disappointed and angry about this decision. It now seems very clear to me that the planning system concerning airport expansion has been rigged by the government to ignore the climate crisis.

The aviation industry and government are planning for a further increase in UK passengers of more than 70% by 2050 while claiming that costly and unproven technologies, and a rapid scaling of alternative fuels, will help the sector to achieve net-zero by the same date. Its very clearly a fantasy being used to justify decisions like that at Bristol.

Here are some of the achievements of BAAN and the many other campaigners who have come together and objected in this important and dignified campaign.

- The airports plans have been delayed since December 2019; over four years. That means we have saved up to four million tonnes of carbon and other emissions into our atmosphere. For context; the annual emissions of all of Bristol’s cars buses and lorries is 500,000 tonnes.

-We have informed many people locally and beyond through demonstrations, town-hall events, articles, broadcast and print media about the vitally important issue of rapidly increasing aviation emissions. This has led to the formation and development of many local groups concerned about the airport and climate change. We have also helped to forge long-lasting links between existing activist groups working on related issues. Perhaps most importantly a trusted network of trust and friendship has been developed in the area which will be utilised in many other campaigns.

-By steadfastly working through the entire legal and planning process, we have bought new clarity to the fact that it is simply not fit-for-purpose. As an example of this, we have definitively demonstrated that there is a gap in the planning system meaning that no one-not the Secretary of State or the Planning Inspectors, have actually taken into account the extra carbon emissions from the extra 13,000 planes that will fly from Bristol Airport because of this decision.

-The outrage caused by this decision, and the fact that up to twenty other airports have plans to expand, has galvanised the beginning of a national campaign against the growth of aviation.