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Mr. McNulty: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has been peeking in my diary, but I plan to visit Bristol shortlyfunnily enough, after 10 June. If it is possible to visit the airport to discuss its plans and to get out and about to see quite what prevails in those villages, I will be happy to do so. For my sins, during the nine or 10 months before the White Paper I managed to visit about 15 airports that are, perhaps, senior to Bristol, but Bristol airport is certainly on my radarno pun intended.
I am grateful that the hon. Member for Woodspring accepts that no simple solution exists to improve access to Bristol airport without impinging on other factors that we all hold dear and that the resolution of the problem must form part of a wider solution. The A370 and A38 study suggests that a link would, as he suggested, enable traffic for the airport to leave the M5 at junction 18, Avonmouth, to avoid the existing congestion in south Bristol. Three options were considered, two of which run fairly close to the Bristol boundary, with the other running more or less parallel to the B3130 through Barrow Gurney.
While the study showed a small saving in journey time for people travelling to the airport, none of the options addressed the other objectivesrelief of congestion in south Bristol or the issue of regeneration. Consequently, it was considered that an isolated link between the A370 and the A38 would not represent good value for money.
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It was decided that the options for improving access to the airport should be looked at againthe hon. Gentleman alluded to thatin a more holistic way as part of the greater Bristol strategic transportation study, which commenced in November 2003 and is due to report in early summer 2005.
As the hon. Gentleman suggests, and is certainly aware, the airport faced some complex constraints. The aviation White Paper forecast suggests that by 2030 it could attract between 10 million and 12 million passengers per annum. While the existing terminal site should be able to cope with up to 8 million passengers per annum, provided that additional aircraft stands can be accommodated, beyond that, as he suggests, a second terminal south of the runway would be required, together with a runway extension to the east and extended parallel taxiway.
In that context, the hon. Gentleman is rightly concerned about the implications that such growth might have for residents in his constituency, although I understand that the number of people living under the 57 dBAA-weighted decibelsnoise contour in 1999 was about 1,000. We would expect only a very small increase in that number by 2015, even at the higher end of the growth forecasts, but I fully accept that noise contours and noise impact are but two of a whole array of impacts that the expansion could have.
With a runway extension, and our highest levels of forecast throughput, estimates suggest that by 2030 there would be no more than about 3,500 people within the 57 dBA noise contour. Similarly, there are concerns that the runway extension needed to accommodate growth over 8 million passengers per annum would require some common land to be taken, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. If that is the case, we would expect it to be replaced elsewhere. There is also likely to be some loss of green belt as a result of a runway extension and new terminal development. However, it is believed that that not would fundamentally affect the integrity of the green belt within the area and it is considered that it may, on balance, be justified by the importance of airport growth to the region's economy.
If all that sounds like extremely qualified provision, that is because it is not for me to prejudge any application that is made or what is in the master plan. Nor is it for me to prejudice any subsequent planned application. That is broadly, in policy framework terms, how such an application would be dealt with in that context.
Dr. Fox: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. First, he underestimates the strength of feeling against any runway extension or the reduction of the common land or green belt, which would be fought tooth and nail by my constituents and those who live in the vicinity, including me.
Secondly, I know that we do not expect major announcements of Government policy in Adjournment debates, but I would be grateful if the Minister would give the House some guidance on this point. When councils are considering planning and the strategic plan, what advice would he, through his officials, give on the relative weight that ought to be placed on having
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necessary transport infrastructure before further expansion takes place? That, surely, is the nub of the debate.
Mr. McNulty: To return to the hon. Gentleman's first point, while it is not for me to prejudge or speculate on what will be in any planned application for the airport, neither is it my job to prejudge what reaction there might be from local communities to such an application.
The aviation White Paper makes it very clear that we would expect in all plans for expansion concomitant and commensurate plans for necessary increases in surface access to the airport. As I have made very plain, Bristol is more unusual than others in the lack of obvious substantive public transport means to improve that surface access, given its location in respect of rail and other links. I would anticipate the master plan and any subsequent application spending a good deal of time on how such service access links would be improved as part of the growth and expansion.
That is made very clear in the White Paper. It may be, although it is not for me to judge, that the Greater Bristol strategic transport study moves matters in that directionwhether to the hon. Gentleman's satisfaction or not I simply do not know, as neither of us know entirely what is in it. It is for the local council and the region, through its regional spatial strategy and regional transport strategywhich will be subsumed
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into the regional spatial strategy, if that does not sound like gobbledegookto understand how all those elements fit together, not simply in relation to the airport but in terms of the broader notion of housing, employment and other strategies in the former Avon area. It is envisaged that all the scenarios developed by that study will include the predicted growth of Bristol International airport and the infrastructure required to support such a development in a sustainable and holistic manner, which also needs to be fully assessed.
I am happy that, at least for now, the airport operators and all the local councils are fully engaged in the study process, and will have due regard to the implications of the scenarios being tested, including the likely traffic implications for the road network in the vicinity of the airport. Certainly, I, and, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman will await with interest the report of such a study. I can understand not only the frustration about there being study upon study, but that, as the airport grows and develops, it requires, and his constituents require, the necessary road infrastructure and service access at least to develop alongside, if not ideally ahead of, such substantial growth and development. The airport's role is important in terms of the local economy, and I am glad that he recognises that. Let us work together to ensure that the infrastructure is what the airport and his constituents deserve.
Question put and agreed to.