Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Stage

1. North Somerset Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Document

Bristol Airport

Why is the Airport important?
Bristol Airport is a major employment location, with around 3,400 jobs on-site. It offers national and international connections for both work and leisure, including tourism. It supports an estimated 15,000 jobs across the South West and South Wales and generates £1.3 billion for the regional economy.

What is the existing policy?
Planning permission was granted in 2011 to facilitate the growth of air traffic to 10 million passengers per annum (mppa). Local planning policy encourages the optimum use of the existing developed area north of the runway. The remainder of the site is within the Green Belt. Development there is largely inappropriate and only permissible in very special circumstances, though some operational buildings can be constructed under permitted development rights. Restrictions on car parking and night flying limit the environmental impacts of growth.

Why does the existing policy need to be reviewed?
The Airport wants to double permitted air traffic to 20 mppa by the 2040s. In the short-term it seeks a relaxation of existing limits to allow for growth to 12 mppa. Its longer-term ambitions for growth will be set out in a new Airport Master Plan. Through the JSP, North Somerset Council recognises the existence of additional growth opportunities at the Airport but many detailed local issues remain to be resolved. These include improved surface access arrangements for a higher number of passengers and measures to mitigate environmental impacts on local communities. Understanding constraints and opportunities to growth form part of the Bristol South West Economic Link study now underway which is examining multi-modal transport intervention options along the A38 corridor.

What are the options for a new policy?

Four potential options for a new policy for Bristol Airport in the new Local Plan have been identified. The advantages and disadvantages of each are set out below:

Option 1 - Retain the existing policy:

Airport 1
Advantages:

  • Most of the airport – except the developed area on the north side – would remain in the Green Belt. Within the inset area, airport related development would be supported, subject to resolving issues surrounding emissions, landscape and surface access. The tighter degree of control elsewhere within the airport would incentivise best use of the developed area.

Disadvantages:

  • The Green Belt would still surround the airport on all sides and include the airfield. This would place a limit to future expansion and provide less flexibility in the use of airport land than the other options. Most forms of development would be inappropriate in the
    Green Belt, meaning that very special circumstances would need to be demonstrated for anything going beyond permitted development rights. These restrictions would limit the extent to which the airport could contribute to economic growth and would not make provision for longer-term aspirations.

Option 2 - Remove airport area from the Green Belt:

Airport 2

Note: The area mapped for this is based on the 2011 permission plus additional land sought if passenger numbers increase to 12 mppa. This illustrates the proposals of the imminent planning application but without prejudice to any decision to be made on that application.

Advantages:

  • Airport-related development would be supported throughout the airport area, subject to resolving issues surrounding emissions,
    landscape and surface access. This would allow greater flexibility in how new development comes forward.

Disadvantages:

  • Some Green Belt – the existing airport operational and related land – would be lost, though it would be covered by a new policy restricting development to that which is airport-related.
  • The Green Belt would still surround the airport on all sides, placing a limit to future expansion. Most forms of development here would be inappropriate, meaning that very special circumstances would need to be demonstrated. This would limit the extent to which the airport could contribute to economic growth and would not make provision for longer-term aspirations.

Option 3 - Remove airport area from the Green Belt and safeguard land for future expansion:

Airport 3

Note: The area mapped for this is based on early work by the airport on meeting future demand. Detailed boundaries could be refined through further work.

Advantages:

  • Room for the airport to grow would be reserved now, ready for use in the 2030s. The Local Plan would establish the acceptability of
    growth in principle and indicate a direction for physical expansion, allowing long-term planning to proceed with more certainty. It would still provide for the planning system to mitigate, as far as is practical, the impacts on local communities and the environment.
  • Airport-related development would be supported throughout the Airport area, subject to resolving issues surrounding emissions,
    landscape and surface access. Additional land to the northwest would be removed from the Green Belt and designated as ‘safeguarded land’. This would be reserved for the future expansion of the Airport but would only be released for this purpose through a subsequent review of the Local Plan after 2020.
  • That subsequent review would consider what uses the land should accommodate but would not need to re-visit the Green Belt status of the land. Besides uses directly related to the operation of the Airport, there could be scope for other employment uses that would benefit from a connection to the airfield, such as aircraft maintenance. It is not intended to allow general employment development that does not need to be located at the Airport and which would add unnecessarily to in-commuting.

Disadvantages:

  • Some Green Belt – the existing Airport operational and related land plus the safeguarded land – would be lost, though the existing Airport would be covered by a new policy restricting development to that which is airport-related; compensatory improvements to landscaping could also form part of any future development.
  • Uncertainty would remain until the subsequent review detailed what uses the safeguarded land should accommodate. Green Belt could be lost unnecessarily if the uses that eventually emerge on the safeguarded land are not demonstrably airport-related. However, the intention would be a safeguarding policy worded to minimise this risk.

Option 4 - Remove airport area from the Green Belt and allocate land for expansion now and in the future:

Airport 4

Advantages:

  • Room for the Airport to grow would be reserved now, ready for use in the 2030s. The Local Plan would establish the acceptability of
    growth in principle and indicate a direction for physical expansion, allowing long-term planning to proceed with more certainty. It would still provide for the planning system to mitigate, as far as is practical, the impacts on local communities and the environment.
  • Airport-related development would be supported throughout the extended airport area, subject to resolving issues surrounding
    emissions, landscape and surface access. Additional land to the north-west would be removed from the Green Belt and allocated
    under this policy. Use of the land would be restricted to airport related development but this could come forward at any time.
  • The range of acceptable uses would be defined now rather than through a subsequent review. Besides uses directly related to the
    operation of the airport, there could be scope for other employment uses that would benefit from a connection to the airfield, such as aircraft maintenance. It is not intended to allow general employment development that does not need to be located at the airport and which would add unnecessarily to in-commuting.

Disadvantages:

  • Some Green Belt – the existing airport operational and related land plus the new allocation – would be lost, though a new policy would restrict development to that which is airport-related; compensatory improvements to landscaping could also form part of any future development.
  • Allocating land ahead of a proven need could lead to it being built over prematurely rather than retained in open uses, reducing
    future flexibility. Green Belt could be lost unnecessarily if the uses that eventually emerge on the additional land are not demonstrably airport-related. However, the intention would be an airport policy worded to minimise this risk.
  • Further work is needed on key aspects, including the surface access arrangements for a higher number of passengers. It might not be sound to suggest that an allocation is deliverable until that further work is done and an acceptable solution is demonstrated.

Question 38:

What are your thoughts on the four proposed options for a Bristol Airport policy in the new Local Plan 2036? Do you have a preferred option?