29th June 2023
Member Letter – Update – June 2023
Our Annual General Meeting took place on 14 June and, with apologies for duplication to those who attended the meeting in person, or have otherwise received the minutes, this newsletter starts with some key points from the Chairman’s report and Treasurer’s report.
Stansted Passenger Numbers
Since March 2022, when the last of the Covid restrictions were lifted, Stansted passenger numbers have recovered strongly and we expect to see Stansted handle around 28 million passengers in 2023, very close to its pre-Covid total. We admit to being surprised by the strength of the recovery, having regard to the current pressures on household income due to increased energy costs, mortgage interest repayments and other inflationary pressures on the cost of living.
We continue to await developments in three major areas, where operational changes could have an adverse impact upon local communities. These are:
(i) Night Flights
The current arrangements for night flights at Stansted are due to expire in October 2025 and the new arrangements need to be announced well in advance in order to allow airlines to plan their schedules. In addition, a lengthy public consultation needs to take place before any changes can be announced.
We had therefore expected that there would, by now, have been some form of announcement from the Department for Transport (DfT) setting out the review timetable, and possibly the initial proposals. There is however still no sign of an announcement. All we can do is wait.
(ii) Airspace Modernisation
It is a similar situation in regard to the airspace modernisation programme. It was expected that the proposed changes to Stansted Airport flightpaths, with options, would be published for public consultation at the start of the year, but nothing has so far emerged. Again, all we can do is wait. The development of local airport plans is the first stage of a long-term national programme co-ordinated by the CAA and there is an emphasis upon local consultation.
(iii) Stansted Airport Sustainable Development Plan (SDP)
I take issue with the use of the word ‘Sustainable’ because this is essentially the blueprint for the long-term growth of Stansted. The last Stansted SDP was published in 2015 and covered the period to 2030. Government guidance is that these plans should be updated every five years, so this is already running quite late, although Covid has taken away four-five years growth. We expect the draft SDP to be published for public consultation very soon. It will cover the period to 2035 or possibly beyond and we will, of course, want to look at this very closely.
Our public inquiry and legal costs in the four-year battle against the 43mppa planning application were in excess of £300,000, almost entirely depleting our bank balance. It is, however, enormously encouraging to see that we are steadily rebuilding our reserves. Our financial position improved from £39,546 (net) in the bank at the end of September 2021, to £68,370 at the end of September 2022, and our bank balance at the end of May 2023 stood at £85,332.
Knighthood for SAW Patron
As you may have seen in the national and local press, our Patron, Terry Waite was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in the King’s first birthday honours list. The appointment recognises Sir Terry’s many years of charitable and humanitarian work.
Sir Terry has long been a stalwart supporter of Stop Stansted Expansion, and then Stansted Airport Watch, despite living more than 30 miles away, in Suffolk. Age 84, Sir Terry is still our Patron today.
We are tremendously proud to have Sir Terry Waite as our Patron. His unwavering support for our campaign over a period of 20 years has been inspirational. On becoming our Patron, in September 2003, he explained the reasons for his passionate support for the campaign:
“When I first heard of the proposals for the expansion of Stansted Airport, I was amazed given the fact that three independent inspectors had completely ruled out any further development. The expansion of Stansted would undoubtedly mean that the total character of the area surrounding Stansted would be entirely changed – and very much for the worse.”
The Future of SAW
I have said more than once in the past that we need to bring fresh blood onto our committee. Never has that challenge been more important than today.
I will be standing down as Chairman no later than at next year’s AGM, and our Treasurer, Denise, and Campaign Office Manager, Sarah, have also signalled their intention to retire in the course of the coming year. Most of our other committee members have been with us from the outset (2002) and, as they say, none of us are getting any younger.
When we founded Stop Stansted Expansion 21 years ago, very few of us had any previous experience or expertise of the aviation industry. However, by doing our own research and learning from one another, we were able to build a reasonably competent team in a relatively short period of time.
The baton now needs to be passed on from the current generation to a younger generation. SAW is a members’ organisation and needs the active support of a core team of members if it is to continue to fulfil the purpose for which it was established. I very much hope that there will be a positive response to this plea for new blood. This is a relatively quiet time and so a good opportunity for new recruits to step forward.
With many thanks for your ongoing support.
Brian Ross, Chairman