The Committee supports the return of Airbourne to Eastbourne in 2023

A group of Eastbourne councilors have agreed to support Airbourne’s return next year as long as efforts to improve the carbon footprint of the event continue.

On Monday (10 October) members of Eastbourne Borough Council’s Review and Audit Committee said they would support the return of the city’s annual air show as long as the event works to reduce its carbon footprint in 2023.

The decision (which does not constitute confirmation of an Airbourne in 2023) came after a report debriefing the committee on this year’s event – the first to be held since 2019 as a result of a Covid-enforced hiatus.

Much of the discussion revolved around efforts to make the event more environmentally friendly than previous years. According to officials, this included a reduced number of flight displays and a focus on hiring exhibition teams committed to carbon offsetting.

However, the committee also heard that the details of the carbon reduction work are unlikely to be announced until the release of an uncompleted report on the event’s environmental impact.

The lack of these details drew criticism from Liberal Democrat Councilor Jonathan Dow, who chairs Eastbourne Borough Council’s Strategic Panel on Climate Change. He said: “How can you, to the best of your knowledge, as an audit committee, find it comfortable when there are so many draft numbers and unsubstantiated evidence in this paper?

“I urge you to opt out of this event going forward and ensure that EBC delivers on its environmental promises. At the very least, you should send that report back and request far more data.

“[This should be] Data that is accurate, independent, and substantiated with no clear bias for the event to continue, notwithstanding the promises, promises, and assurances of the local authority of which you are a review board.”

A similar sentiment was expressed in a written statement read on behalf of Devonshire Councilor Steve Wallis (Lib Dem).

However, none of the councilors served on the review committee, which chose to support the event’s return as long as it made efforts to reduce its environmental impact in years to come. The committee also expressed its view that the event is important to the city’s economic well-being and reputation as a visitor destination.

The condition for environmental improvements came through wording proposed by Cllr Josh Babarinde (Lib Dem), who argued that the ultimate goal should be to make the event carbon neutral.

While this wording was unanimously approved after the debate, Conservative leader Robert Smart questioned whether Airbourne could ever realistically be a carbon neutral event.

He said: “We have before us the standard balance between economy and environment that we have. Everyone must become realistic that there is an economic and ecological balance.

“Of course there are improvements that can continue to be made – and I think they will continue to be made… but really in this discussion today, right now, we’re talking about support for next year.”

Other environmental improvements discussed by the committee included work to reduce plastics and move away from diesel generators.

There had also been a PR campaign to encourage potential Airbourne visitors to use alternatives to driving when traveling to the event. However, the event ultimately coincided with a major railroad strike.

Committee members also heard organizers being asked to ensure this year’s airshow was “cost neutral” for the council. As part of this, the organizers introduced a range of new revenue streams including grandstand seats, membership packages and financial contributions from local businesses.

Although final figures have not yet been confirmed, this approach is expected to have been successful, with Council forecasting a small surplus of £10,105 against a base budget of £425,550.

While the event received the committee’s endorsement, a decision has yet to be announced on whether the airshow will return in 2023. The Committee supports the return of Airbourne to Eastbourne in 2023

Fry Electronics Team

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