1st September 2003

Alistair Darling told to Quash Industry Rumours About Runway Decisions

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has today (1 September) written to the Secretary of State for Transport Alistair Darling asking him to put a stop to aviation industry rumour-mongering about runway decisions and is asking the local community to do the same by writing their own letters as soon as possible.

The campaign group took swift steps following a news report (London Evening Standard) that a new runway is to be opened at Stansted in 2017 “according to an industry source”.  The report is the second of its kind in a fortnight and clearly designed to mislead people into thinking that “it’s all over” and no longer worth campaigning.

SSE chairman Norman Mead has therefore asked the Secretary of State and his Parliamentary Under Secretary, Tony McNulty MP, to write to the aviation industry and its representatives, notably BA, BAA, IATA and Freedom To Fly, to confirm to them in writing that no technical or political decisions have yet been taken with respect to the contents of the Air Transport White Paper.

According to a recent conversation with the Department for Transport, the panel responsible for making strategic recommendations on the outcome of the consultation has not yet even met to review responses to the consultation which are apparently still being sifted.

SSE also wants the Secretary of State to ask the aviation industry to stop its rumour-mongering which is not helpful either to those within the communities affected or to the credibility of the Department for Transport.

The campaign group, which has 4300 individual members and around 1000 online supporters and is backed by more than 60 parish and local councils, environmental, heritage and preservation groups, is now urging its supporters and others in the local community who feel strongly about the malicious rumours being spread by the aviation industry to write too.

“If everyone can write a short letter to Alistair Darling calling on him to tackle the rumours head on and to confirm that no decisions have yet been made regarding Stansted, this will do much to demonstrate the fact that while we are upset by these rumours, they make us more determined than ever to fight the proposals,” said Norman Mead.  “Anyone who does write should also reiterate their opposition to extra runways being built at Stansted.”

The address for people to write to is:  The Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR.  Those writing should send a copy to their local MP as appropriate at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA asking him to follow up the matter further.  A sample letter appears on the SSE website or can be obtained from the campaign office on T 01279 870558.

Mr Mead is also seeking the assurance of the Transport Secretary that the rumours have not emanated from anything that the Department for Transport has issued to the aviation industry and that his Department is committed to doing all it can to quash such irresponsible speculation.

“Rumours about the siting of runways cause real distress to people who are already under significant pressure and blight from the proposals which have been put forward for consultation,” campaign chairman Norman Mead told Alistair Darling.  “However,” he added, “far from making people give up and accept the prospect of a new runway, they actually make people redouble their efforts although not always in the measured way that campaign groups such as Stop Stansted Expansion has advocated.”

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