14th December 2020
Much has happened in the two months since I last updated you, most sadly the fact that the UK death toll from Covid-19 has risen from 42,592 on 8 October to more than 63,000 at time of writing. However, mass vaccination has now begun and we must all hope for better news in the future.
The pandemic continues to devastate the aviation industry. Stansted Airport will handle fewer than 8 million passengers this year compared to 28 million last year. Even the industry optimists believe it will be 4-5 years before passenger numbers return to 2019 levels. But, despite everything, Stansted’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), continue to insist on appealing the democratic decision of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to refuse its application for permission to handle 43 million passengers per annum (mppa), compared to its current permission for 35mppa. Let me now update you in that regard.
Airport Planning Application
As a consequence of MAG’s appeal, a Public Inquiry will review UDC’s decision to refuse the Stansted Airport planning application. Despite strong representations from SSE, this is to start at 10am on Tuesday 12 January and will take place at the Radisson Hotel, Stansted Airport. It is expected to last until the end of March, i.e. just before Easter.
SSE has been granted Rule 6 status for the application, which means that we will be one of the main parties, alongside MAG and UDC. There is only one other Rule 6 party, namely Essex Highways, jointly with Highways England, but only in regard to the impact of the proposed expansion of the airport upon the local roads network and the M11 (especially Junction 8).
SSE will be presenting evidence on 11 topics, with 11 witnesses, as follows:
- Local Context – highlighting the special characteristics and history of the local area;
- Planning History – explaining the airport’s relentless incrementalism and broken promises;
- Air Traffic Forecasts – challenging MAG on the need for the proposed expansion;
- Noise Impacts – the impact of another 74,000 flights a year – a 37% increase on 2019;
- Health Effects – aircraft noise and pollution impacts on human health, both locally and globally;
- Air Quality – the impact of the extra flights on local people and on the natural environment;
- Climate Change – highlighting that aviation is the fastest growing contributor to climate change;
- Road Traffic – dismissal of MAG’s projections and understatement of impact on M11/local roads;
- Rail – questioning capacity to handle extra airport traffic alongside growing commuter demand;
- Socio-economics – highlighting the negative impacts of aviation on the UK economy; and
- Planning Considerations – summarising the planning reasons for refusing the application.
On each of the above topics SSE will have the opportunity to cross-examine MAG’s witnesses and we have two leading planning QCs to assist us in that regard. In seeking to defend its decision to refuse the application, UDC will also have the opportunity to cross-examine MAG’s witnesses but, surprisingly, UDC is only presenting evidence on four of the above topics (numbers 3, 4, 7 and 11) and so will only be permitted to cross-examine on these topics, such are the rules.
All of the SSE, MAG, UDC and Highways Proofs of Evidence can be viewed on the Planning Inspectorate’s website for the Inquiry at https://programmeofficers.co.uk/ssairport/.
As you might imagine, this is an enormously busy time for SSE. We have just completed the submission of our formal written evidence on each of the above topics, meeting the Inquiry deadline of 8 December with very little time to spare and thanks only to an extraordinary effort by our volunteer team of local experts, supported by four external consultants and our two QCs. We are now busily reviewing all the MAG, UDC and Highways evidence so that we are well-prepared for the start of the Inquiry on 12 January. This is where we need your help, in two possible ways:
(1) As well as the technical evidence, it is vital for the Planning Inspectors to hear the views of local residents. Anyone can request to speak at the Inquiry and it is hugely important for local voices to be heard. Your contribution need not be lengthy, technical or complicated. A personal statement from a local resident can be far more powerful than an expert consultant’s report.
You do not need to appear in person. You will be able to give your evidence to the Inspectors by video link, either from your own home or from a designated safe venue. All the proceedings of the Public Inquiry will be live-streamed. Applications to speak should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org who will then advise you of the arrangements. SSE is very keen to ensure that local voices are heard but this should not simply be a repetition of a submission you have already made, and you should aim to provide a perspective – quite possibly a local perspective – which the Inspectors might not otherwise have been able to hear.
(2) Second, as you might expect, there are very significant costs associated with the legal support and expert consultants that we currently need to support our own local volunteer experts. I am well aware that we have already appealed for donations but I do need to do so again. I apologise if you have already donated but if not, may I refer you to the donations page at https://stanstedairportwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Appeal-for-funds-flyer-December-2020.pdf and ask you please to consider making a contribution to our fighting fund, to the extent that you are able. SSE is determined to do everything possible to defeat MAG at this Public Inquiry. We do not want to be hampered by a lack of the financial wherewithal.
An easy way to help is by buying the SSE 2021 Community Calendar which, as always, features superb local photos, all taken by volunteers. Unlike previous years, our sales team will not be knocking on doors so if you would like a calendar you will need to visit one of the shops listed via https://stanstedairportwatch.com/take-action/sse-community-calendar/. You might even consider buying several calendars as Christmas presents for friends and family and mail order options can be seen via https://stanstedairportwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Door-to-door-flyer-REVERSE-2021.pdf.
In so many respects this has been a very difficult year and may I therefore take this opportunity to wish you and yours an especially Happy Christmas and a better turn of events in 2021.
With many thanks for your ongoing support.