In response to a previous article BH Living broke in July, BCP council put out a press release confirming there were no plans to shelve the Bournemouth Air Show in 2020. But in the background, some councillors are unhappy with it’s continuation. Could we be seeing a disappearance of the world-renowned show in the future over claims about its environmental impact?
With every year that passes, there are renewed calls for the much loved Air Festival to be disbanded in favour of more environmentally sustainable events and attractions. This year the voices grew louder although the threatened mass demonstrations by local environmentalists failed to materialise.
Some people are very keen on it and the status it gives Bournemouth, with others very vocally against because of the carbon emissions released by the planes, the excess amount of litter and extreme road congestion across the weekend.
So, what is the solution? Can we continue to stand proud as one of the top ten air festivals worldwide, while still aware of the climate emergency that has been declared for the area?
BH living spoke to different councillors as well as business organisations in the BCP area to find out what the feeling is on the ground (excuse the pun!) about the world renowned show.
There is no doubt that the show attracts people from across the country and internationally. This year it is estimated that the display brought over 800,000 people to the south coast and Cllr Philip Broadhead, Deputy Leader of BCP Conservatives recognises the local economy boost: “The Air Festival is the most popular free annual event in the whole of the UK. Each year it thrills our residents and brings a million visitors to the conurbation where they spend more than £30 million in our shops, hotels and restaurants.
“The Conservatives introduced the Air Festival in 2008 and it has been fantastic for visitors, residents and jobs. We can be absolutely clear about this; while the Air Festival continues to be so popular, the Conservatives will support it 100% and we will fight all the way to stop BCP’s new chaotic coalition from destroying it.”
It is estimated that 110,000 litres of jet fuel was used over the four days of displays this year, producing roughly 275 tonnes of Co2 emissions. However, Bournemouth Air Festival organisers have pledged to offset carbon emissions by planting 275 trees in the local area. They say that for each tree planed a tonne of carbon will be saved in the Amazon Rainforest through the avoided deforestation project selected by the Air Festival. You can read more about the project here.
However given that BCP council have declared a climate emergency in the area, could we be doing more? They say that climate change is a serious risk to Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s future and have ‘pledged to make BCP Council and its operations carbon neutral by 2030, and to work with the wider community to look at how early the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole region can be made carbon neutral, ahead of the UK target of 2050.’
According to the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, in the year 2017, Bournemouth produced 585 Kiloton’s (kt) of Co2, and a total of 1378 (kt) of Co2 was produced from the BCP area. And although it shows that the amount of emissions in each area have significantly reduced over the last years, there is still a long way to go if the council are going to reach their carbon neutral pledge.
Green Party councillor Simon Bull, who proposed the climate emergency motion to the BCP council thinks that sacrifices need to be made: “The council have supported my motion to declare the climate emergency and to become carbon neutral by 2030 and it may mean we lose some of the things people like, but I would rather lose some things people like, so we can breathe the air and be able to live on the planet. Its a producer of air pollution which we don’t want, don’t need and can’t sustain going forward.”
Although he understands the appeal and the joy that the event brings to Bournemouth, he believes that we should invest in other events: “I do get the air festival, my son loves all the planes going over, and it is a shame to lose it but it might just be necessary.
“We have events such as Arts by the Sea Festival which is already very popular so it might be a case of expanding something like that. Is there an opportunity for an alternative electric vehicle show, a chance to really become creative and innovative making Bournemouth the place to go with your sustainable fuel solutions?”
Local Hotel Director, David Bailey, has been working in the Bournemouth hotel industry for over 20 years, and has witnessed the economic impact of every Bournemouth Air Show to date! And although he understands the environmental concerns , he believes that we are stepping in the right direction in terms of sustaining the event in the future:
“I think anyone would agree that there are certainly climate issues globally, this year at the Air Festival, we’ve gone further than any other Air Festival, I believe, in offsetting the carbon emissions of the displays. We’re encouraging all the traders along the seafront to reduce or remove their single use plastics and all the council services and emergency services are being issued with reusable and refillable water bottles for the water filling stations all across the seafront. So, I think we’re going a long way to boost our green credentials and I think a lot of people have criticised what we’ve done, but rather than criticising it, it should be applauded and then look to move forward to see what else we can do.
“We’ve always encouraged people to use public transport during the air festival and the ‘Park and Ride’ scheme has been very good to try and keep vehicles out of the centre of town. I think there’s lots of things we can work on for the future. It would be a shame to see the end of the Bournemouth Air Festival, simply because it does so much for the town.”
We put some of the ideas proposed by Cllr. Bull of other more sustainable events taking the place of the airshow in the future. “I don’t have a problem with another event” he responded, “as long as we work on that event to make sure it has the economic impact that the Air Festival has and also the profile that the Air Festival has.”
“Thousands of people rely on tourism for their livelihood in the town. It’s something we should be encouraging as tourism across the BCP area is worth £1.2 billion a year- that’s figures with an awful lot of numbers on it!” He added.
So for now, it looks like the Bournemouth Air Festival will be around for another year at least. However, it seems like it may be on borrowed time as BCP Council continue working towards it’s carbon emissions targets. There is no doubt that the festival is well loved by not only the hundreds of thousands of visitors that it attracts each year, but also by local residents. The Festival creates jobs and much needed revenue for local businesses with many asking the question: “If not the Air Festival, what?”
What do you think? Would it be a mistake to drop the Air Festival? Is there a good alternative that BCP Council should consider? Why not leave your comments below…