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Bristol Airport Expansion: The Final Council Showdown

Dave Harvey | 11:47 UK time, Monday, 24 May 2010

Update : Tuesday 25 May
The Airport expansion plans have been PASSED, by a majority of councillors, the vote was 10 -2. Now the Secretary of State for planning, Eric Pickles, must give it the final all clear - or, of course, throw the whole thing out.

it looks like I'll be a Bristol Airport frequent flyer, though not from Lulsgate but to it.

So this is it.

Fourteen Councillors will meet in Weston Town Hall this afternoon, and decide whether the £150m project should be cleared for take off.

I'll be updating regularly from the meeting on twitter, so click here to get the latest.

We've been through the arguments zillions of times, and they'll do it all again today. New readers, start here.

Council officials have backed it. In March, the junior planning committee backed it.

A betting man would think a tenner on an Airport victory was easy winnings. But then, just last week, this intervention from a local doctor.

"Traffic congestion already has a major effect on many villages in North Somerset, particularly in Barrow Gurney, and I can only imagine how much worse this will be when passenger numbers are set to almost double in number."

Many would agree. Airport bosses, of course, would point to the £5m they are offering to alleviate local jams. But this is not just any old country GP. Dr Liam Fox is, of course, the MP for North Somerset, and now in the Cabinet. His qualms about the tiny roads around Lulsgate are well known here, but now he has some real power. And here's the threat:

"Given that we now have a new Government in place, and will expect any future transport policy to include regional airports, it would seem unreasonable to many of my constituents that decisions are being made on an issue of such importance based on the previous Governments Air Transport White Paper from 2003."

Is Dr Fox saying the new government will squash Bristol's plans? Certainly the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, will have the final say. And David Cameron's government has already abandoned Labour's plans for a new runway at Heathrow.

The airport plans may have cleared customs, they may even be boarding the plane, as it were. But as any budget holidaymaker knows, you can't relax until the wheels have left the tarmac. And airport bosses won't be relaxing until they see the diggers arrive and the ink is dry.

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