Support shown for Stansted Airport plans but campaigners say e-mails carry ‘little weight’

PUBLISHED: 09:11 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:11 08 May 2018

An aerial shot of Stansted Airport

An aerial shot of Stansted Airport

Archant

Stansted Airport bosses have welcomed more than 650 responses of support for the airport’s expansion plans, but campaigners say the “spin doctors” did not point out that 615 of the responses were almost identical computer-generated e-mails.

As Uttlesford District Council (UDC) closed its public consultation on Manchester Airport Group’s (MAG) planning application to increase passenger numbers at Stansted Airport, the airport’s chief executive, Ken O’Toole, welcomed a “strong show of support” from local people and the political and business communities.

But Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said the responses were prompted by a letter from Mr O’Toole to all his employees and airport-based businesses urging them to “voice their support” for MAG’s expansion proposals for Stansted by filling out a form which would automatically send a letter to the council.

A spokesman for SSE said: “Its attempt to flood UDC with standard e-mails supporting its expansion plans may have spectacularly backfired because the computerised system which generated the e-mails failed to include the sender’s postal address – a requirement which the council has always insisted upon.

“As a result, it is understood these automatic e-mails are to be treated as a petition, which will carry minimal weight.”

SSE’s deputy chairman, Brian Ross added: “Local people have outscored the airport’s computer ‘voting’ system with more than 700 objections to MAG’s plans – all individually written. Aircraft noise, especially at night, is the biggest concern – followed by road traffic, with many respondents saying that local roads already can’t cope.”

Key businesses and organisations in the region which have expressed support for the plans include the University of Cambridge and Harlow Enterprise Zone.

Mr O’Toole said: “I’ve been delighted at the scale and breadth of the backing our plans have received. The airport is clearly recognised as a major asset and gateway to the East of England, London and the wider UK, and it is very encouraging to know we have developed such a broad coalition of support, particularly from those businesses and organisations that are also creating jobs and delivering growth in the local and regional economy.”

The airport has put forward a package of commitments as part of its planning application, which they say includes no increase to the existing aircraft movement limit and noise footprint, a new sound insulation grant scheme offering grants of up to £10,000 for those residents affected by aircraft noise and additional funding to support improvements to local road network, including Junction 8 on the M11.

Last Monday, SSE sent UDC a 175-page response setting out grounds for refusing the application.

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