Uttlesford District Council leader defends decision to further delay Stansted Airport plans

UDC lead Councillor John Lodge. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

UDC lead Councillor John Lodge. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford district councillors intend to “review” a Stansted Airport planning application which was “rushed through”, after councillors made the bold decision to refer the matter back to planning committee, defying legal advice from council officers.

At an extraordinary council meeting held this afternoon councillors voted not to issue a planning approval notice for Stansted Airport, despite a warning that further delaying the approval notice could result in a potentially costly appeal.

Stansted Airport was granted planning permission to increase its annual passenger throughput from 35 million to 43 million per year at a meeting of the Uttlesford District Council (UDC) planning committee in November last year.

In a statement released after the meeting, R4U's Cllr John Lodge, Uttlesford District Council Leader, said: "There is a strong belief that the previous Conservative council administration tried to rush through the expansion before the May election. Stansted Airport is a significant part of our district and is nationally important, so it has to be done properly. The proposed expansion to nearly the size of Gatwick will bring jobs, but it will have a big negative impact on surrounding communities, our roads and railways, and particularly the environment. These impacts must be properly mitigated and so the council has voted for a new review before planning is granted."

Cllr Lodge added: "Very importantly there are also new material considerations that directly relate to aviation. The UK's brand new Carbon Net Zero 2050 legislation was signed in to law this week; a recent high court decision backed Heathrow's 3rd runway; the government's issued its aviation 2050 strategy; and the European airport association has agreed their own climate change net zero initiative. These must now also be considered. If the airport's owners appeal this decision, it could well be the UK's first test case for the new carbon net zero 2050 legislation."

Following the meeting, a spokesman for Stansted Airport said: "We are concerned that the council has not only chosen to ignore the recommendations of its own officers but also disregarded its independent legal advice which supports the original view that there is no legitimate reason to withhold approval for this application.

"Our frustration at this delay will no doubt also be shared by the considerable number of local residents, businesses, staff and on-site partners who have passionately backed these plans, which will boost our region's economic growth and deliver 5,000 additional jobs.

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"From the outset we have listened to local views and this feedback lead us to put forward a proposal which maintained the cap on the number of flights and committed to deliver the growth within a legally binding smaller noise footprint than our existing permissions require. This forms part of a comprehensive set of mitigation measures which have been independently endorsed.

"We remain in discussion with the Council while we consider all the options available to us."