Recently, and in the face of opposition from every level of the local community from individuals through parish, county and regional councils, the Planning Inspectorate granted on appeal the expansion of Bristol Airport.
This will enable tens of thousands more flights per year, including night flights, and ten thousands more car journeys per day. The carbon impact and the effect on congestion in the region cannot be understated, when only recently at COP26 we declared the world was at one minute to midnight.
Climate catastrophe is an oft bandied term, but it means the loss of habitable land for people, the loss of survivable environment for many other species; animal, fish, plant, insect, fungi… the effective death of the planet we know and rely upon.
Hands up, I have flown and I will on occasion fly again. I was trying, the other day, to work out how often I had flown in my life and I think it’s about a dozen times in commerical jets over sixty years with the longest distance being cross-Atlantic. Flight per se is not the issue, until it becomes the norm. But I digress…
Who, then, approved this disaster in waiting? The Planning Inspectorate, obviously. But how did they come to this conclusion – what are the guidances and authorities by which they hold this power. They don’t actually advertise it. The legislation under which they derive their power is the Localism Act 2011, where the National Infrastructure Planning Commission was abolished and their powers transferred to the Secretary of State.
The only information the government offer about the Planning Inspectorate is that is makes recommendations to the SoS, but it doesn’t state how those decisions are determined… The best description of the role of the Planning Inspectorate is in their annual report. They show:
The Planning Inspectorate has three primary roles:
to help communities shape where they live;
to operate a fair and sustainable planning system; and
to help meet future infrastructure needs.
Did they help the community? The level of opposition would give a clear ‘no’ to that. Is the additional of all that carbon in any way sustainable? Well, that’s not the determinant. The only question is is the system fair and sustainable? And the future infrastructure needs…
You can argue our future infrastructure needs are more about flood mitigation, sea rise defences, food, water and power production and distribution. Our infrastructure wants might include additional holidays abroad, or fresh strawberries in winter time, but are they needs?
I suspect the only need here is the need for rich people to get richer, and for the rest of us to put up with jet engines growling through the night skies… and the catastrophe that comes ever closer.
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