VIDEO: Mayoral candidates oppose Bristol Airport growth
LEADING candidates in the race to become Bristol's first elected mayor have spoken out against the proposed £150 million expansion of the city's airport.
Two of the four main candidates publicly announced at a debate in the city yesterday that they were opposed to the plans, which aim to ensure the Lulsgate site can cater for up to 10 million passengers per year.
The rivals in the race to become Bristol's first elected mayor were all keen to put their business credentials on show at the second of a series of public debates.
But Labour candidate Marvin Rees and Conservative Geoff Gollop were the only ones of the front-runners to support the airport expansion.
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Liberal Democrat Jon Rogers and independent George Ferguson spoke against the plans at the question and answer session at the Temple Quay offices of Burges Salmon, one of Bristol's biggest law firms.
Mr Ferguson said a planned fast train link to Heathrow would give Bristolians access to an international hub airport, while Mr Rogers said Bristol Airport was not the only way of achieving good international links for the city.
All four claimed they were happy to work with the business community to make Bristol a successful and thriving economic centre for the region.
The hustings debate was chaired by the Post's editor Mike Norton.
Questions covered issues including what the new mayor would do to improve the area's economy and how they would work with businesses.
Responding to the comments on the airport's expansion, Bristol Airport spokesman James Gore said: "While Bristol's mayor will not have decision-making power over airport development, he will have a role to play in supporting delivery of major transport schemes such as Bus Rapid Transit and the South Bristol Link, both of which will enhance surface access for passengers.
"The mayor will also have a key role in attracting inward investment to the city. Access to air travel is a key driver of investment decisions, so we would urge the successful candidate to support Bristol's airport, rather than expensive rail links to already congested South East competitors."
The event was held on the day the Bristol Pound was launched and Mr Ferguson told the audience he would be more than happy to have his salary paid in the new currency.
THE candidates were asked what they would do to strengthen Bristol's international links and their views on the airport expansion.
George Ferguson said: "It is vital we improve transport links and the port is one of the most important centres of business in the area.
"The fast train link to Heathrow gives us direct access to an international hub that Bristol can never be.
"My emphasis would be to improve links to Europe – we just need to look at the transport structure that is in place.
"What we need is a train service which takes us from A to B efficiently and at a reasonable cost.
"I am against an airport expansion at Bristol that doesn't address the environmental concerns."
Jon Rogers said: "I don't want to see the expansion of the airport. We need good international links for the city but there are other ways of doing that.
"Bristol Airport has poor road links and there are other ways of moving around the country."
Geoff Gollop said: "The problem with the airport is that people get here and then can't get to where they want to be.
"The only way the airport can take more international passengers is if the airport can link up to the rest of the city. Bristol's profile nationally and internationally is something that we need to work on.
"The airport has to have links with areas and countries that we do trade with as a city.
"The emphasis at the airport needs to be business and places we do business with.
"It is business that is going to bring the jobs we need in the city."
Marvin Rees said: "What we need to do is have a coherent plan that looks 40 to 50 years in the future.
"We are going to have to look at how to develop the airport and at a direct rail connection to the Continent.
"Going forward, I am in support of developing the airport."
THE candidates were asked whether they were pro-growth.
George Ferguson said: "It would be ridiculous to say you were against growth at a time when we need jobs and growth.
"What I am against is supermarkets taking over the city. We don't want useless jobs that are going to destroy other jobs in the city."
Jon Rogers said: "I am pro-sustainable growth, not growth that is just there for the sake of it.
"What I am talking about is the small and medium-sized firms that are sustainable, local businesses that serve their local community.
"What it is not about is huge multi- nationals coming to Bristol and taking all of their profits out of the city instead of investing."
Geoff Gollop said: "I am pro-growth and believe that we can create growth in the city.
"I find it slightly disturbing that we are not keen on multi-nationals coming to Bristol, sadly we cannot pick and chose.
"I am not going to come up with a list of good and bad companies, which we will send to the planners.
"The key thing is that we can't pick and choose the sort of companies that we want to come to Bristol.
"What we do not want is for the jobs to go elsewhere in the country."
Local Enterprise Partnership
SPEAKING on the issue of how the mayor can have real influence on the local business scene.
Marvin Rees said: "This role will come with a lot of power and opportunity. I also think there is a big piece to look at in terms of the Local Enterprise Partnership.
"Bristol has a reputation as a place that starts things and doesn't get them done. That is something we have to change.
"I think the LEP is going to be the powerhouse and is the way we should go forward. I think the mayor's office should be involved in the Local Enterprise Partnership. The personality clashes of the past and the Bristol colonialism is something we are going to have to work on to make it work.
Geoff Gollop said: "Bristol is open for business. We need to embrace businesses that make a profit and not be embarrassed about it.
"In the past the message that has gone out has been ambivalent.
"One issue we need to deal with is the issue of changing the attitude of local authority officers.
"It seems to be remarkably easy to say no to things. What we need to be doing is saying yes and then work out how things can be done.
"It is difficult to say you are open for business when, for the last 25 years, the game plan seems to have been to make sure nothing has happened. We need to be a city where we make things happen."
Jon Rogers said: "We need to make sure Bristol thrives. It is a great place to be and we have to get that message out there.
"As part of that, we need to make sure that the buildings and infrastructure works for the city.
"I did vote against the concept of a mayor as there was a fear that all power would go upwards rather than downwards. We have to make sure that does not happen."
George Ferguson said: "I love Bristol but sometimes it frustrates the hell out of me.
"If you go to Manchester they have a completely open approach to business.
"That is what we need to do here in Bristol. We have to make our presence felt not just in London but also further afield.
"If I am elected I will be a mayor who is open to business. Someone who is a figurehead and an advocate for the city."
THE candidates were asked for their views on how housing shortages in Bristol can be addressed by the new mayor.
Geoff Gollop said: "We are currently looking at the disposable assets the council has in the city.
"We have also been looking at financial packages so people can buy their own home. If people want to take up jobs in the city then we have to give them homes to live in.
"Too often the city council's decisions have been based on the short term. An elected mayor will be taking a much more strategic view."
Marvin Rees said: "It is not just about building units or houses, it is about building communities.
"There are some real opportunities and it is all about thinking big. There are some key strategic issues that we can address but it is about taking a long-term view.
"Part of the mayor's role will be about facing up to the difficult and controversial decisions which will have to be taken."
George Ferguson said: "I wish I was standing as mayor for the greater Bristol area. Some issues can be dealt with much better on a regional level.
"As an independent I can bury the politics that have been damaging for the city.
"We need to think about decent places where people can live and that means that some tough decisions will have to be made. It is a matter of talking and finding a way of putting new communities on the ground."
Jon Rogers said: "Housing should be very much a part of the community and the fact is we have a lot of empty homes in the city which are not being used.
"We also have to look at the various brownfield sites around Bristol, where there are plenty of opportunities."