Airport saga continues - and you can have a say
PUBLISHED: 10:12 16 January 2020
The campaign to stop Stansted Airport being allowed to take more passengers - Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is urging Uttlesford District Council to wait for High Court judgement before giving the scheme planning permission.
The campaign says it believes that the district council is likely to jump ahead of the court's decision and put the scheme before planning officers on Friday, January 24.
SSE is also asking for the council to wait for the publication of the Government's new aviation policy - both expected at any time - before making a decision on the current Stansted Airport planning application.
SSE Chairman Peter Sanders, speaking for the campaign said: "Uttlesford planning officers have been pressing their councillors to decide the controversial planning application as soon as possible and have set a timetable which could mean that councillors would be forced to vote at a Special Meeting of the Planning Committee scheduled for Friday, January 24.
"For more than a year, officers have been recommending that councillors should approve the airport planning application."
"The application was submitted by Stansted's owners, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), in February 2018. If approved it would allow an additional 15 million passengers (54% increase) and an additional 75,000 flights a year (38% increase) compared to 2019. SSE has objected to the application from the outset, primarily because of the additional noise, air pollution and carbon emissions and the consequential health impacts on local residents over a wide area.
"This is a highly complex planning application where the documentation extends to over 13,000 pages. Even before it was submitted, SSE argued strongly that it should be dealt with by the Government's expert team which examines nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), rather than by the local council."
He added: "Planning applications for expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton are all currently being considered at national level, as NSIPs rather than locally. Uttlesford is alone in trying to deal with the Stansted application at local level. Uttlesford is one of the smallest local authorities in England and inevitably has limited resources and limited expertise with regard to airport development. On top of all this, its planning officers are heavily committed on work relating to the new Local Plan, its first update for 15 years."
The central issue in SSE's legal challenge is whether the current airport planning application should be decided locally or nationally. The case was heard in the High Court in mid-November and the judge's decision is expected at any time.
Mr Sanders said: " It would be illogical, and would potentially give rise to substantial and unnecessary legal costs, if UDC were to attempt to determine the application locally before the final outcome of these High Court proceedings clarifies the legal position.
"Also imminently expected is the new Aviation White Paper setting out the Government's long term policy for the future development of UK airports and the wider aviation industry. This will be only the third Aviation White Paper since 1985 and it will define the Government's updated approach towards controlling aircraft noise, air pollution and carbon emissions. All of these matters are highly relevant to the consideration of the current airport planning application.
Mr Sanders commented: "It is fully appreciated that enormous pressure is being put upon our local council by the airport and various lobbyists to decide the current planning application. We would however urge the council not to be swayed by this pressure, or by any sweeteners offered by Stansted Airport . It is common sense that the Planning Committee should await the decision of the High Court and also the new Aviation White Paper, both of which are imminently expected.
Mr Sanders concluded: "There is no rush to settle this matter. Stansted has plenty of headroom for growth under its existing planning permission and the fact is that passenger numbers have been in decline for the past six months. This is a time for calm reflection, not a potentially costly, hasty decision."
Uttlesford District Council has been asked for a comment.
Meanwhile, UDC has announced that there will be a planning committee meeting regarding the airport on January 17 and January 24. The first day will be for the public to express their views. If you wish to speak, email firstname.lastname@example.org before noon today, January 16. Allocated slots will be confirmed by 5pm.