Concerns raised about private meetings between district council and owners of Stansted Airport

PUBLISHED: 10:12 11 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:12 11 May 2018

Runway at Stansted Airport

Runway at Stansted Airport

Archant

The leader of the Uttlesford Liberal Democrat group says the district council has held 35 meetings with Stansted Airport management behind closed doors, pointing to a lack of transparency and democratic accountability.

Councillor Alan Dean said the differences in transparency between the current application to increase passenger numbers at Stansted Airport and the previous application submitted in 2006 were marked.

Cllr Dean said: “The current application arrived at Uttlesford District Council (UDC) on Thursday, February 22, 2018. More than two months later, in early May, there has not been a single meeting in public. None is planned until July.

“In 2006 there were 16 meetings in public at which councillors and members of the public challenged the implications of a 65 per cent increase in passengers.

“This year there may be as few as two meetings only in public before a doubling of airport passengers capability is either approved or refused.”

Cllr Dean also claimed that the public should be aware that the extra aircraft taxiways and stands at Stansted would make the airport capable of growing to the size of Gatwick at around 50 million passengers per annum, not the 43 million on the label of the application documents.

He said: “So, for the past three weeks I have been seeking a meeting with planning officers to discuss my concerns about the seemingly fast-track, low profile way in which this high impact scheme is being progressed. I can report obfuscation and avoidance.

“Despite this lack of transparency and democratic accountability at UDC, time has been found to hold 35 meetings with airport management behind closed doors. These private meetings have been attended by senior council personnel.

“The impact on towns and villages within Uttlesford district, including Great Dunmow, Saffron Walden, Stansted Mountfitchet and Thaxted, would be significant.”

A spokesman for UDC said: “Senior council officers have had regular meetings with staff from Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to discuss airport-related issues and some of these included private pre-application discussions. This is nothing out of the ordinary, and occurs with many developers.

“Unlike the 2006 application, this current proposal is subject to a planning performance agreement relating to timescales, actions and resources, and the timetable for determination has been set accordingly.

“Officers are aware of concerns expressed about what the ultimate capacity of the airport might be, and the extent to which this is a material planning consideration will be dealt with in the officers’ report.”

MAG, which runs Stansted, declined to comment.

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