“Second Airport for City” shrieked yesterday’s Evening Post front page lead. “Filton ‘cleared’ for take-off in regional transport plan”.
Second airport? Shit, that’s big news, eh? That’ll be controversial. After all there’s already a growing opposition movement of residents and environmentalists opposed to Bristol International Airport’s planned expansion.
But, this story seems to have come out of nowhere. Well, maybe it has.
By the second paragraph of the report by the Post’s Marc Rath, we discover that the whole story is based on one “planning consultant’s” interpretation of the wording of the SWRA’s Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) draft report.
Planning consultant Graham Parker believes wording in the Regional Spatial Strategy allows for an upgrade of Filton Airfield to a commercial airport.
The Government wants the airfield, which is used by Airbus and other aerospace companies, as well as for pilot training and business flights, to be “more integrated” into the South West transport network.
The consultant, Graham Parker of of CSJ Planning also happens to work for a developer building 2000 homes next to Filton airfield we are told.
The story coincidently broke on the same day that campaigners against housing development around Greater Bristol (also part of the RSS plan) were at Parliament lobbying MP’s – a story which was pushed to page 2 by the Filton Airfield report.
So, other than one consultant with a vested interest, who else can back up the Post’s claim that Filton is to be expanded? Well, no one. In fact everyone with an interest approached by the Post, including those responsible for the RSS report, says that there is no chance of Filton opening to commercial traffic. Of course the most emphatic and authoritative denials are all left to the end of the story,
Gyles Harris, chairman of the Campaign Against Filton Commercial Airport [which opposed the planned expansion in the 1990s], believes the airfield will not be upgraded as too many homes are being built in the area. . .
Alan Haile, manager of Filton Airfield, said he was unaware of any plans to upgrade the airfield for commercial use.
Bristol International Airport spokesman James Gore dismissed the suggestion that a rival commercial airport would be created in Filton.
He said: “Someone has put two and two together to come up with five. . .
Mr Naysmith [the local MP] said: “There is absolutely no chance of Filton becoming a commercial airport. There are too many houses nearby.”
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said: “The Government recently published an Aviation White Paper which favoured the expansion of Bristol Airport as the principal commercial one in the region.”
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “The RSS clearly states that Filton should simply continue to serve local business and aviation needs.”
Perhaps the Post has information we don’t know about. Perhaps they have good reason to believe their source is more reliable than every other interested party including the very report he is ‘interpreting’. Maybe they are just mugs and have swallowed a line fed to them by a consultant with his own agenda.
Or, perhaps when their EXCLUSIVE quickly fell apart they decided to stick it on the front page anyway hoping no one would read past the headline and the first few paragraphs. Or perhaps they just like manufactured hype.
Anyway, the evidence wasn’t enough for them to resist this shit-stirring attempt to create a bit of controversy in their Comment column . . .
. . . . and then follow it up with a double-page spread in today’s edition focusing on the failed 1990s attempted Filton upgrade, complete with artist’s impression and a vox pop of locals’ reactions to the made-up plans.
Artist’s impression: How Filton airfield definitely won’t look.
Maybe we (along with everyone quoted in the story) will be proved wrong. Maybe the SWRA do intend for Filton to be expanded and the Post are holding back the killer evidence. But we doubt it.
This does kind of raise a point about what the newspaper and the journalist’s role should be. Are they there merely to report every opinion, statement and idea offered up by every businessman, PR agency or politician with an agenda to promote. Or do journalists have a responsibility to take a view on the truth of what they report. Well, I suppose it depends on the nature of the media organisation and we all know the nature of this media organisation.