Two people stand surrounded by others on the floor pretending to be dead.

Youth Die-in Targets Airport

Resistance to Bristol Airport expansion continues as 30 youth activists stage a die-in inside the terminal building this afternoon. 

At 12.30 today (Saturday, March 5) XR Youth activists entered the terminal building having arrived by bus and proceeded to lie on the ground covered in white sheets as three more activists walked amongst them wearing hazmat suits. 

One activist spoke through a megaphone about the reasons for the action and others held conversations with airport customers who were reportedly receptive. Security made no attempt to stop the action and only intervened after the die-in when the group attempted to chant as they left the terminal. The whole action lasted around half an hour. 

Tom, 17, an XR Youth activist said: ‘We are taking action today to highlight the damage that Bristol Airport expansion will cause to our planet. As young people, our futures are already at risk – we need to be stopping this crisis, not worsening it.’

He went on to say: ‘Bristol Airport has lied to us – they claim they will be a net-zero airport by 2030 but the truth is that the largest factor, the actual flights, are not included in that.’

The die-in begins as the “dead” activists are draped with white sheets. Image: Simon Holliday.

Bristol Airport’s plans to expand from 10mn to 12mn passengers per year were given the green light last month by government planning inspectors following a 36-day inquiry between July and October last year. 

The decision has been branded undemocratic by opponents of expansion. In a public consultation in 2020, 84% of responses across the region were opposed to the expansion plans, rising to over 90% in some areas closest to the airport. North Somerset Council refused the plans whilst Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority all formally opposed the expansion. 

Opponents also argue that expansion of the airport will lead to increased carbon emissions, greater noise pollution in nearby villages, higher levels of air pollution across Bristol and more congestion on the roads leading to the airport. 

Speaking to The Bristol Activist, an XR Youth spokesperson said that young people in Bristol feel deeply let down by the inquiry process which they say wasn’t democratic and only pretended to include young people’s views whilst in reality it ignored them. 

The spokesperson said that the group intends to continue campaigning to stop the expansion and are prepared to use more and more direct action in pursuit of this goal and are even prepared to “lay in front of bulldozers” if that’s what it takes. 

One person speaks through a megaphone, another holds a briefcase saying "Airport Expansion" whilst others lie on the floor pretending to be dead.
Image: Simon Holliday.

The expansion is deeply unpopular with activist and campaign groups, as well as local politicians. At a rally in February, West of England metro mayor Dan Norris called for the planning inspector’s decision to be overturned, saying that expansion would “drive a coach and horses” through the West of England Combined Authority’s net zero plans. 

Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN), who have campaigned against the expansion of Bristol Airport since 2019 and appeared at the planning inquiry in 2021 have condemned the planning inspectors’ decision whilst XR Bristol have made the airport a focus of their new campaign targeting greenwash.

On Monday (February 28) XR Bristol disrupted a conference on green tourism sponsored by Bristol Airport at which airport CEO Dave Lees was scheduled to speak. Lees later cancelled as a result of XR’s presence outside the conference venue. 

In a statement responding to today’s action, Bristol Airport said: ‘During the planning process we consulted extensively with local communities and a wide range of stakeholders, this feedback guided our phased approach to growth. 

‘We have listened to local views and accept the challenge of climate change and have made significant changes to our business, which includes solar power, renewable energy and many more initiatives. We achieved carbon neutrality status in 2021 and commit to net zero airport operations by 2030.’

Feature image: Simon Holliday.

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