1,000-strong petition reignites Stansted expansion debate
PUBLISHED: 16:58 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:10 18 June 2019
Stansted Airport's controversial plans to raise its passenger number threshold are set to be put under the spotlight once again after a 1,000-strong petition was submitted to the local council.
Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), which organised the petition - thought to be the biggest in the history of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) - is calling for the application to be referred back to the council's planning committee.
The airport wants to raise passenger numbers by 8m to 43m a year, but has faced fierce opposition from the group.
MORE - 'Too late' for council to reverse decision on airport, says incoming administration
It had cleared almost all hurdles to the plan when residents voted out the Conservative administration at the council elections in May in favour of new party Residents for Uttlesford (R4U).
The council has been seeking legal advice about the Section 106 conditions attached to the permission, but hasn't yet decided what action to take.
The council's new leader, John Lodge of R4U, said he had instructed council officers to make sure the petition was formally accepted and a public debate quickly scheduled. The matter will now be considered at an extraordinary council meeting on June 28.
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"The old district council administration didn't listen to residents and had forgotten who they worked for," he claimed.
But the airport expansion was an "important, emotive and complex topic", he said.
"Our new Residents Administration is determined to change the culture at UDC. Making sure that this debate happens is a tangible example that things are starting to change. Residents want to be heard and petitions like this are a good indication that democracy is alive in Uttlesford."
The council's stance on the application is expected to become clear at the June 28 meeting, when it may issue a decision notice giving the final go-ahead with the Section 106 conditions - or go another route.
SSE deputy chairman Brian Ross said there was an "overwhelming" case for the UDC planning committee to have another look at the issue. "It's not only their legal entitlement but also their legal duty to do so. It is imperative that UDC officers do not issue final approval to Stansted Airport before allowing the planning committee an opportunity to take stock of the situation."
But an airport spokesman said: "All planning decisions are taken having regard to clear legal and objective assessment. Our comprehensive mitigation package has already been the subject of many months of negotiations, and has been reviewed and approved by the council's independent legal team and independent statutory consultees such as Highways England and Essex County Council before being approved by the council's own planning committee."