MP for Saffron Walden ‘surprised’ at party’s call for public inquiry into Stansted Airport expansion bid

PUBLISHED: 10:01 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:02 29 March 2018

R4U Councillor Alex Armstrong. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

R4U Councillor Alex Armstrong. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Archant

Political group, Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), has called on the respective secretaries of state and Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch to hold a public inquiry into the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport.

Runway at Stansted AirportRunway at Stansted Airport

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns and operates Stansted Airport, has submitted a planning application to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to expand the airport capacity to more than 43 million passengers per annum.

Dunmow councillor, R4U’s Alex Armstrong, said the fact UDC is expected to make the decision is highly concerning because UDC isn’t responsible for UK national infrastructure and the council administration had “shown a poor track record” in delivering significant infrastructure or long-range strategic plans.

Cllr Armstrong said: “It is unclear if Stansted Airport actually needs to expand. The government has stated that its preferred option for the London area is a third runway at Heathrow, and not major expansions of either Gatwick or Stansted. So is MAG now trying to sneak it under the radar? Why else would they be proposing an increase that is just under the legal threshold for the government to automatically make the decision? It feels like a very cynical move.

“It is even more concerning for local residents because over the next 15 years, UDC is planning for 15,000 new houses in the district. The council wants the majority of these to be around the airport area and feeding into the same roads and railways which already can’t cope.

“Any decision about a major airport expansion such as this is of national significance because there would be a major impact to roads, railways, local communities, noise and the environment. It requires the scrutiny and independence that only a public inquiry can give. Heathrow and Gatwick residents have had theirs, so why not here?

“To make sure of the best outcome for local people, Residents for Uttlesford has written to both the secretaries of state for local government and transport, and to MP Kemi Badenoch to urge for a public inquiry.

“This is the first big test for our new MP on local matters, so people will be watching carefully to see if she can deliver.”

A spokesman for UDC said: “The application is a valid one and under planning legislation we are obliged to determine it.”

Kemi Badenoch said: “I have had a large number of conversations with constituents, parish councils and district councillors about this issue, so I am aware of the strength of feeling. Therefore, it makes sense for our community to have a strong say on such a significant matter through locally elected officials.

“Uttlesford District Council are much better placed to consider local issues than a central government department with no ties to the area. Allowing this to happen would be surrendering any element of control or influence over what happens in our community.

“I am very surprised that R4U are pushing for this option. They claim to be the party of local residents, but are advocating for residents to lose their influence. When tough decisions need to be made, R4U prefer to pass the buck and bypass local decision makers.

“It is important to remember that with a new runway at Heathrow not due for many years, the only spare airport capacity across the South East is at Stansted. The airport is a strategic asset to the country, so this decision is far more likely to be approved at national level.

“However, as the Member of Parliament, I want to see the best possible outcome for constituents.

“I am committed to localism, and will consult with the Secretary of State, leader of Uttlesford District Council and others to review the likelihood and effectiveness of a public enquiry.

“In the meantime, I am pleased to hear the period of public consultation has been extended to April 30.”

Public consultation is open on the UDC website at www.uttlesford.gov.uk/airportapplication.

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