Fears grow over Bristol airport plan

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The Independent Online
Controversial plans for a second commercial airport to serve Bristol and the West Country moved a stage further yesterday as a new airline was launched which aims to run business flights from Filton airfield by the spring.

More than 7,000 people live in the flight path of the British Aerospace airfield, mostly in new houses around the new town of Bradley Stoke. Many feel their lives will suffer if the company, Air Bristol, achieves its target of 27,000 aircraft movements a year.

BAe's Filton site employs about 8,000 people on making wings for the European Airbus and other projects. But the company says the airfield, which costs pounds 1m a year to run, is under-used. Management believes a commercial airport will help guarantee its future.

It was announced yesterday that Air Bristol's chairman will be Charles Stuart, a former board member of British Airways and chairman and chief executive of Brymon Airways from 1983 to 1991. To begin with, the company intends running three BAe 146 jets which are considered quiet enough to operate out of the London City airport.

The company claims Bristol's existing airport, 18 miles south of the city at Lulsgate, is unable to cope with more passengers. Numbers last year rose by almost 40 per cent, topping 1 million for the first time. The airport has been thwarted by Woodspring District Council in its plan to open a second terminal and this will now go to a public inquiry due to be held in May.

'Lulsgate is inaccessible and facilities for business people are poor,' Malcolm Ginsberg, Air Bristol's spokesman, said. 'It is ideal as a holidaymakers' airport, but will never be the type of port of entry and departure that businessmen demand.'

Details of Air Bristol's sources of finance and European destinations are due to be announced next month. Mr Ginsberg said these were likely to include Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt and Milan. He said the airport was expected to create 200 jobs.

Opponents of the plans for Filton have been alarmed to discover BAe does not need planning consent to open the airport as it has an airfield licence from the Civil Aviation Authority and was granted the relevant airfield status last year.

Thelma Smith, an Avon county councillor, many of whose constituents live below Filton's flight path, said: 'There is no doubt people's lives will be downgraded. Those living nearby shut their doors when aircraft are landing because of the fumes coming into their homes. And when planes fly over Filton College, you have to stop talking because of the noise.'

Meanwhile, management at Bristol airport deny Lulsgate is inadequate or inaccessible. Jackie Preston, marketing manager, said: 'We realise that in the long term we will need more space. But as far as passengers on scheduled flights are concerned there is no great problem. We are constantly improving facilities.

'As for access, the airport is well signposted, though it would be ideal if we were close to a motorway or a had a rail link.'