Council leader defends total spent on outside legal advice over airport application

Uttlesford District Council's offices

Uttlesford District Council's offices - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has spent more than £90,000 on outside legal advice concerning a major Stansted Airport application.

In a freedom of information request, this newspaper asked UDC how much it had paid for external legal advice since November 2018 regarding the airport's application to increase its annual passenger throughput.

The council initially refused the request, stating that the advice received was subject to "legal professional privilege" but has now revealed the cost, after an appeal.

UDC was a Conservative-run administration when the airport's plans were approved last November but, in May this year, Residents 4 Uttlesford (R4U) took power and councillors voted in June not to issue the planning approval notice, deciding instead to refer the issue back to the planning committee.

The total paid by the council, by both Conservative and R4U administrations since November 2018, amounts to £90,767, with £31,750 paid to Stephen Hockman QC, who advised UDC on the motions considered by council at meetings in April and June.

Barrister Christian Zwart was paid £44,217 for legal advice and attendance at the April and June meetings. Mr Zwart was also paid £5,800 for advice on a section 106 agreement.

The council has also received invoices for £9,000 from Philip Coppel QC, for advice and attendance at meetings.

Most Read

Council leader, Councillor John Lodge said: "Some of those costs are the normal legal expenses required for such a complex planning application, but they also include the costs of our ongoing review of the airport expansion.

"Stansted Airport is an important part of our local economy. However, it needs to mitigate the impact it has on our villages, local roads, railway and environment. That is why the council is reviewing the legal agreement surrounding the expansion.

"To put the council's spending into context, the company which owns Stansted Airport paid their directors £6.5million last year, which dwarfs what the council needs to spend to get this right.

"It is also important to note that UDC's review is not holding up the expansion because it has been put on hold until November anyway by the judicial review that campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion filed with the High Court."