20th January 2020

Airport planning application – balance switches from delay to refuse

The world has moved on – circumstances have changed. That was the key message from speaker after speaker at a lively meeting of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee last Friday (17 January). The meeting was arranged to provide an opportunity for the Committee to hear the views of the public and local councillors regarding the 2018 airport planning application, which UDC is currently reconsidering.

If the expansion proposed by Stansted’s owners, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), was approved it would allow the airport to grow by 15 million passengers a year, an increase of 54% compared to its current level of throughput, making Stansted about the same size as today’s Gatwick. It would also allow an additional 75,000 flights a year (38% increase) compared to 2019. [Note 1]

SSE has argued for two years that the proposed expansion is unacceptable because of the additional noise, air pollution and carbon emissions, and the consequential adverse health impacts on local residents over a wide area, emphasising that we have a duty of care for the next generation.

At last Friday’s meeting, SSE’s repeated warnings about the potentially serious health impacts of the proposed expansion for the local community were explained to the Planning Committee in more detail by health expert Professor Jangu Banatvala CBE, a resident of Henham. The Professor’s assessment was endorsed by practising Thaxted GP, Dr Mike Tayler. High Easter resident Dr Margaret Beer also raised concerns about community health and wellbeing.

New evidence was presented to the Committee showing that emissions of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, would increase significantly if the airport expansion proposals were to be approved, and that PM2.5 is far more harmful than previously thought. It is inhaled and translocated to organs and tissues which can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The new research has also identified links between PM2.5 and damage to the central nervous system and has shown that there is no safe limit for PM2.5. Research by King’s College London also showed that ultrafine particles generated by aircraft taking off can be detected up to 14 miles away from the airport.

A local Broxted resident expressed utter disbelief that UDC planning officers were still recommending the Planning Committee to approve the proposed expansion, despite the overwhelming new evidence of potential adverse health impacts on the local community.

Increased noise was another major concern for many speakers and, again, the adverse health impacts of aircraft noise arising from stress, sleep disturbance and other factors were explained to the Committee by Professor Banatvala and others. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had found evidence of significant adverse health impacts from aircraft noise at just half the levels previously considered to be safe. The noise impacts of Stansted Airport already exceeded the new exposure limits recommended by the WHO. Again, the question was raised as to why, in the light of this new WHO guidance, UDC planning officers were still recommending approval of the MAG planning application.

However, the subject raised by more speakers than any other was the growing awareness of the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions. It was pointed out that if MAG’s expansion plans for Stansted were to be approved, more than a million extra tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) would be released into the atmosphere every year. Many speakers echoed the recent words of Sir David Attenborough, warning that we have at most ten years to prevent a climate emergency becoming a climate catastrophe.

Stansted Airport is the largest single source of carbon emissions in the East of England and aviation is the fastest growing contributor to global climate change. Several speakers reminded their councillors that just a few months ago Uttlesford District Council had declared a climate emergency and pledged to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2030. Deeds have to follow words.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented. “The world has moved on since this planning application was first considered by the Council’s Planning Committee in November 2018. If the Committee had known at that time what we know now about the far more serious potential health impacts of air pollution and aircraft noise, the application would surely never have been provisionally approved. Add to that the mounting evidence that we are facing a climate catastrophe if we don’t act now and it becomes clear that to approve this application would be irresponsible to future generations.”

Peter Sanders concluded: “Just a week ago, SSE’s view was that the Council should not make a hasty decision but should instead wait for more facts and figures. There is now no need for delay because the latest evidence is overwhelming. The application should be refused at the Planning Committee meeting next Friday [Note 2]. In fact, we are now hoping it will be a unanimous refusal which will give the decision added weight and make it less likely that MAG will appeal.”



Note 1: In 2019 Stansted catered for 28 million passengers and 199,000 flights. Its current permission allows it to handle 35 million passengers and, in practice, no more than 227,000 flights.

Note 2: This Friday’s meeting (24 January) of the UDC Planning Committee, which is open to the public, will be held at the UDC Offices, London Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4ER and will start at 11am. There will be a 40 minute presentation from SSE which is expected to start between 11.30am and 12noon.

Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman: 01799 520411; petersanders77@talktalk.net
Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: T 01279 814540 or (M) 07850 937143; brian.ross@lineone.net
SSE Campaign Office, T 01279 870558; info@stanstedairportwatch.com

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits