Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Airport Expansion under the Spotlight

At last night's full Council meeting of Bristol City Council the following motion, tabled by Bristol's only Green Councillor Charlie Bolton, was debated.
This Council does not believe that expansion of Bristol International Airport is necessary for the economic success of Bristol, nor does it believe it is compatible with the target of 80% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions introduced by the Climate Change Act 2008.....

As expected the motion was supported by the Lib-Dems but then defeated by a Labour 'wrecking amendment' which was voted through with Conservative support. A familiar pattern, mirroring the events of exactly one year ago when Charlie's motion to 'save the Railway Path' was supported by the Lib-Dems and then defeated by a Labour wrecking amendment supported by the Tories.

However these debates are by no means a waste of time. On each occasion the overall agenda moves forward a few more inches. The Green Party position gains credibility, the Lib-Dems move towards a greener agenda, the Labour Party are exposed as fundamentally anti-environmental (clumsy word that) and the Conservatives are shown to be largely bereft of environmental awareness despite Cameron's efforts.

Whether such inching forward will lead us to a sustainable model of social and economic organisation in time to avert the worst effects of Climate Change is doubtful, but change for the most part consists of such modest adjustments. We either support it, ignore it or oppose it. So let's give credit to those who have supported change in this case, to Charlie Bolton for tabling the motion and to the Lib-Dems for supporting it.

I was planning to continue this post with an exploration of the issues, but they are too complex to be touched on lightly. Don't underestimate the difficulty of this issue for politicians, especially those appealing for support from a broader constituency than the Green Party. Few of us have not taken advantage of the opportunities for cheap and fast travel afforded by Bristol Airport and many of us regard it as our gateway to the wider world. The contradictions with sustainability cannot any longer be brushed aside.


Anonymous said...

Pretty pompous stuff on your blog once again - the amended motion was supported by all the main parties and talks of reducing emissions, tackling car dependency etc. It is not a green light for BIA expansion (which is for N Somerset anyway) but as usual, you skirt over the facts. You should have seen several of the labour cllrs during the debate looking distinctly unhappy at the Tory's unbridled support for expansion - Rosalie Walker and Mark Bradshaw in particular. Both left the chamber to speak to their whip!! JB

Jon Rogers said...

It was a wrecking amendment from Labour supported yet again by their Conservative friends.

There is a simple choice in June.

More Labour/Conservatives stitch ups or a Lib Dem majority.

JB, I hadn't spotted Rosalie Walker and Mark Bradshaw "looking unhappy", but I am not surprised. They both remember the parallel situation when their group voted to wreck the railway path motion.

This time, as then, the question should be "Why?"


Anonymous said...


Yet other LD councils are supporting airport expansion elsewhere eg Liverpool.

Me thinks this owes more to your and Stephen William's desperation in holding onto your respective seats this June and next May!

Not everyone's fooled by this latest conversion to matters green, well except Chris Hutt that is :). JB

Jon Rogers said...

JB - Your speculation suggests that you don't know me or Stephen?

TonyD said...

Whatever Jon's motives he supported the Green Party motion.

Even if Mark Bradshaw and Rosalie Walker were upset they didn't have the courage to vote for the motion.

Action speak louder than words or crocodile tears!

As for Liverpool, Norwich and elsewhere - that is for the voters there to decide. Just as in Ashley it is up to the voters there (I am sure Jon will recover quickly from Daniella taking his seat - he seems quite resilient to me!)

Anonymous said...

oh dear Jon, touched a nerve i think :) and of course, you fail to address the other Lib dem-run councils actively supporting airport expansion. but, as usual, local opportunism outweights principles.

as for last night's council, I saw both cllrs walker and bradshaw in the foyer having a heated conversation with the labour whip! wouldn't be suprised if one or both quit their frontbench. JB

Chris Hutt said...

JB, firstly thank you for the background info on the behind-the-scenes action. I only watched via the webcast so you have the advantage.

Yes I "skirted over" the facts because there wasn't time to go into it all in detail and if I had I doubt whether anyone would bother to read it all. However it is open to you and anyone else to comment if you think I have misrepresented things, which you have done. So fair enough.

I'm well aware that politicians of all parties have an eye on electoral advantage, but that doesn't necessarilly preclude them acting on principle sometimes. I suspect in this instance the Lib-Dems may be taking something of a risk because my guess is that they stand to lose more votes than they stand to gain by taking a stronger line against the expansion of the airport.

My view, for what it's worth, is that the airport expansion is largely a symbolic issue. People need to be sent clear signals about the direction society and the economy are heading. A decision to oppose the airport expansion would have been one such signal.

Anonymous said...

maybe we should await the planning application and see who supports and opposes? JB