Union brands shock airport expansion decision 'flawed' and 'short-sighted'

PUBLISHED: 16:50 27 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:37 28 January 2020

Passengers at the terminal concourse at Stansted Airport  Picture: LUCY MARTIN

Passengers at the terminal concourse at Stansted Airport Picture: LUCY MARTIN

Lucy Martin/Stansted Airport

Union chiefs have slammed a shock decision to block plans to expand Stansted airport as "short-sighted" and damaging to jobs.

Unite warned Uttlesford District Council's planning committee decision on Friday, January 24, following months of delays would take its toll on the future economic growth of the region.

A row over the future of the airport - which wanted to raise the ceiling on passenger numbers from 35m to 43m - continues to rage with campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) calling on owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to respect the council's decision and not to appeal.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: "We deplore this short-sighted decision by Uttlesford district council's planning committee which will have an adverse impact on future employment growth at the airport and, more widely, it will have negative ripple effects across the region's economy.

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"We will be working with Stansted's stakeholders, including the owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG), as to the best way that this flawed decision can be challenged."

Friday's decision - taken following last May's change of regime at the council, when Residents 4 Uttlesford (R4U) ousted the Conservative administration at council elections - was a retrograde step, he argued.

"With an insecure economic climate and the need to provide quality, well paid jobs for current and future generations, Friday's decision is a step backwards.

"From tourism to the hi-tech industry, businesses are desperate to have easy, efficient access to Stansted Airport's increasing gateways to the world - and this now appears to have been put in jeopardy.

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"There is no denying that the airport delivers substantial benefits to the Uttlesford, Essex and East of England economies. This comes in many forms, but most notably from the 12,000 on-site jobs, of which over 2,500 are Uttlesford residents.

"Planning permission would have created 5,000 more jobs at the airport and a further £1bn of economic value would also have been generated."

A Stansted spokesman said after the meeting that the airport was "naturally disappointed" and would consider its next steps carefully.

"From the outset, we have listened to local communities to put forward an application that delivers the benefits of growth and a comprehensive package of mitigation measures to benefit local communities.

"We are naturally disappointed that the planning committee has chosen to consciously ignore the recommendations of not only its own officers but also the additional advice it commissioned at significant cost to the taxpayer from independent technical experts and lawyers. The conclusions of this advice were clear that there should be no impediment to granting approval.

"We will now carefully consider the comments made by the planning committee before deciding our next steps."

But R4U's councillor John Lodge, leader of Uttlesford District Council said his administration "resolutely" supported the decision of the planning committee.

"It found material and sound planning reasons why the application should not be approved. Expanding Stansted up to the size of Gatwick is unnecessary as it can continue to be a major employer and contributor to the regional economy without this expansion," he said.

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