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Climate activists slam 'shameful' backing of Norwich Airport vision

PUBLISHED: 21:36 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:36 17 October 2019

Environmental campaigners have blasted the city councils endorsement of a plan for the future of Norwich Airport as shameful. Photo: Archant

Environmental campaigners have blasted the city councils endorsement of a plan for the future of Norwich Airport as shameful. Photo: Archant

Archant

Environmental campaigners have blasted the city council's endorsement of a plan for the future of Norwich Airport as "shameful" and "a fantasy".

Richard Pace, managing director of Norwich Airport. Pic: SubmittedRichard Pace, managing director of Norwich Airport. Pic: Submitted

A vision to treble yearly passenger numbers at Norwich Airport to more than 1.4m by 2045 was backed by Norwich city council's cabinet at a meeting last week.

But the masterplan, which was first unveiled in 2017, was met with scepticism from Green Party councillors and climate activists who packed a meeting room for a debate over the decision tonight (Wednesday, October 17).

And after the committee voted against a full council debate on the issue, Extinction Rebellion Norwich (XR) members hit out at councillors for a lack of action.

"They won't allow a democratic debate - it's shameful," said XR member Tim Knight-Hughes.

Jamie Osborn was arrested by police during a climate protest. Picture: Extinction Rebellion NorwichJamie Osborn was arrested by police during a climate protest. Picture: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

MORE: Airport scheme to bring in 1.4m passengers gets City Hall backing

And campaigner Nicola Harrison added: "They never even mentioned the fact that half of Norfolk might be under the sea.

"They're living in a fantasy."

The endorsement came under the spotlight after councillors 'called it in' to the scrutiny committee, with a report claiming the decision was "meaningless."

Councillor Mike Stonard. Pic: Archant.Councillor Mike Stonard. Pic: Archant.

Councillors questioned why the environmental impact of the plan was deemed neutral, but council regeneration director, Graham Nelson, said the assessment was on the impact of backing the vision, and not of the plan itself.

"I'm not going to suggest that's likely to do anything other than increase the carbon footprint of the airport," he said.

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Mr Osborn asked how backing the plan provided an economic benefit but no environment impact, which cabinet member for transport Mike Stonard called a "fundamental misunderstanding".

Mrs Carlo called the airport's climate assessment "pathetic" and claimed the council was keen to "rubber stamp" the masterplan.

And Mr Stonard hit out at the Green group as "unreasonable", and claimed they were criticising cabinet for "not doing things we don't have the power to do", after disputing the group's assertion that cabinet could limit flights.

"You would close down the airport which there are thousands of jobs associated with," he said.

A majority of committee members voted against referring the masterplan back to the cabinet or on to the full council, but airport bosses have been asked to provide evidence at the next masterplan review of what steps they will take to reduce the airport's carbon impact.

And speaking after the meeting, XR spokesperson Andrew Boswell said: "Norwich city council are shirking their responsibility on the climate emergency.

"They admit that endorsing the airport masterplan, or not, makes very little difference.

"They could have taken a position to not endorse masterplan and send a clear message to the public about the perils of aviation carbon emissions.

"In failing to do they are letting down the next generation.

"Our children and grand children will be left to clear up the mess, and literally suck emissions out of the atmosphere with technologies that don't even exist."

MORE: Airport scheme to bring in 1.4m passengers gets City Hall backing

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