BB Roadwatch: "a touch of class"


As promised for Blog Action Day . . .

Loudmouth Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, that privately educated and over-privileged man of the people, has had a crack at campaigners fighting the plans to expand Bristol Airport in The Cancer.

“They badger us and bang on about how the end of the world is nigh because of global warming – but it’s not. Aircraft account for less than two per cent of pollution.

“The biggest polluter is the Government. Taxing to the hilt of petrol and cars hasn’t stopped people driving around in huge vehicles.

“Ryanair has reduced CO2 emissions by 50 per cent and noise pollution by 52 per cent. No other industry has a record like the airline industry when it comes to that.

“We’re doing this despite tighter demands being put on us all the time – but it won’t stop the Swampies of this world climbing up trees to protest about airlines and airports. They should all get a job and get a life.”

Phew, where do you start? Has O’Leary entered a ‘how many stereotypes can you get into the smallest rant competition’? But for the record Mike, I’d love to give up my day job to spend all day fucking up your stupid business and your stupid posh git life.

OK, so maybe there’s an element of truth when O’Leary says that aircraft account for just 2% of carbon emmissions, which is a relatively small amount. But is that the whole story?

Of course not. Bristol Airport expansion will not happen in a vacuum. What also comes with it are new roads to get passengers to this expanded airport. Specifically, an expanded Bristol Airport will mean that the South Bristol Ring Road will be built.

This new ring road is not just a bad thing because of the increased emissions it will generate – which the road lobby can characterise, with a degree of accuracy, as marginal or limited and point their fingers, as they always do, at what’s happening in China and India – it will also divide and destroy long established communities.

Plans for the South Bristol Ring Road are hard to come by – city council planning officers attending meetings on the subject are well-known for their paranoid refusal to sit by maps of any proposed route and refuse outright to be photographed in the vicinity of any visual representation of their proposed road – although it is likely to be routed through Whitchurch, Hartcliffe and Withywood.

These combined communities contain at least 10,000 households and at least 5% of Bristol’s population and – by an extraordinary coincidence – they’re all working class communities. The prognosis, judging by Bristol’s road building projects in the past, for these working class communities is not good. Easton and St Pauls, divided in the 70s by the M32 still suffer and will continue to do do.

City of Culture judge, Jeremy Isaacs, famously described Bristol as “a divided city” and the M32 as “a physical manifestation of this rift, creating a concrete divide between the St Paul’s and Easton communities”. And the city’s long-term response to this? Divide more communities over in the south of the city with roads of course!

Over in Barton Hill – hemmed in by the only section of the aborted inner ring road ever built and by the spine road foisted on the city by the car-obssessed Tories of the early 90s – £50 million of regeneration money has been unable to alter the social realities created when an area becomes carved up by major roads.

The simple fact is that roads through communities destroy them. From the M32 in Bristol to the Westway in London to the freeways of LA. Major roads create major divisions, not just in geography, but in class, wealth, power and access between the communities forced to host the roads and the rest of the city reaping the benefits.

The communities affected by the South Bristol ring road will be no different. Even the talk of the benefits to south Bristol in terms of regeneration from this new road are dubious. Comparisons claiming North Bristol is way ahead of the south because of its road connections are indeed accurate. But North Bristol has direct connections to motorways – major road arteries – and rail connections.

What’s proposed in south Bristol is not a major road artery but a little dual carrigeway that’ll be overwhelmed with traffic the moment it opens. Are we seriously expected to believe that major companies will locate there? Where would you locate your firm? In North Bristol with direct connections to the M4/M5 or on a congested dual carriageway to the south, ten miles from the nearest decent road?

If these road builders were really serious about economically regenerating south Bristol through transport links – rather than just providing a handy little through road for airport traffic across some of Bristol’s poorest communities – they would be proposing an M4/M5 southern link. That’s a proper motorway connecting the M4 and M5 to the south of the city that would deal with airport traffic, ease congested holiday traffic travelling to the south west and provide the kind of transport connections major business need.

Of course there’s no sign of such a proposal because such a road would have to go through the Mendips where all the rich people live. The real Swampies and Nimbys like senior planning officers, wealthy road building civil engineers, pilots and the rest of the technocratic elite living in their convenient countryside idyll aren’t about to have that disturbed are they?

Besides surely it’s madness to run a motorway through the green and pleasant Mendips owned by the rich? But then why isn’t it madness to run a road through Barton Hill? Easton? Hartcliffe? St Pauls? Withywood? The places occupied by the poor?

Blog Action Day

This entry was posted in Bristol, Bristol Evening Post, Developments, Environment, Global warming, Hartcliffe, Politics, Whitchurch Park Ward and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to BB Roadwatch: "a touch of class"

  1. Hey this is pretty good! I agree with the larger part of it (though I would not build any new motorways)! Vowlsie and Blogger UNITE!

    Anyone that begins by having a go at Ryanair’s boss is highly likely to get my sympathy for a start! He chooses only figures that back his case, since its not only aircraft carbon emissions that cause climate change – its also nitrogen oxides and water vapour emitted high in the atmosphere that increases the warming effects still further. He ignores both the rate of growth of air travel (cheap fares stimulated…) and the % contribution to household environmental impact of air travel eg for my own household (zero flights last yr) if we had flown to say, Florida and back our footprint would have risen by 38%!

    The poorest in the world are suffering most from climate change whilst the richest, like Ryanair boss O’Leary get even richer.

  2. haddynuf says:

    I agree hugely with your thoughts on this issue. Just one thing, though, not all dwellers in the Mendips are super-rich people, nor are they all rich in the villages that lie close to the airport. I moved into mine twenty-five years ago as a newly-married Somerset-born person, not exactly flush with cash. The airport at that time was a pokey little backwater, with it’s dreams of unending wealth not even formed.
    Now the village is blighted day and night with traffic rushing to and fro, many of them airport taxis and leisure-trippers. No, I’m not happy about any of it, and with the Core Development about to add another 9000 houses to SW Bristol over the next 20 years, things can only get worse.
    Naturally I’m looking at the expansion from another residential point of view, but the same thing is common to both….expansion of this airport will destroy. Your communities, and the ones I live close to, rich or poor alike.
    Lulsgate always was going to be a bloody crazy place to build a huge airport. Miles from a rail-link, miles from a motorway junction; no thought given to the local villages and their narrow roads creating congestion.
    O’Leary is the type of person who cares nought for his effects on people and environment; in fact, the same can be said for all large businesses.
    It’s no surprise that North Somerset council has harrassed the airport bosses by pointing out that, if other businesses are expected to cut their CO2 emissions, then giving a green light for airport expansion is a direct contradiction of government policy.

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