16th January 2003

An Act of Vandalism on an Unprecedented Scale

Expanding Stansted Airport would be one of the greatest acts of vandalism in this country’s history, campaigners from Stop Stansted Expansion have told the government.

The remarks come in the group’s response to the Secretary of State for Transport’s proposals for airport expansion in the south east, to be published today, Thursday 16 January, which makes clear Stop Stansted Expansion’s position in terms of the way forward. Further submissions will be made by the campaign on noise and health issues in due course pending receipt of additional, long-awaited information from the Department for Transport.

The 74-page document formally sets out the campaigners’ opposition to further runways at Stansted as well as at other sites in the south east which have been put under threat by the government’s plans. It is based on the reasoning that the incrementalist approach which the government has adopted to date and in the planning up to 2030 means that it would only be a matter of time before yet more runways were added – thus making a mockery of the idea that Stansted would be safe if just a single runway were to be built.

Meanwhile, the basis on which the government has assessed likely future demand is also called into question and the campaign accuses the consultation of failing to measure up to the government’s policy on sustainable development.

Stop Stansted Expansion condemns the ‘predict and provide’ policy which has been used to try to gauge demand 30 years from now and which has driven the expansionist focus of the proposals. This is in contrast to a methodology which would, more sensibly, rely on a balanced examination of demand and the economics of expansion in the context of environmental needs, both global and local. Stop Stansted Expansion believes that the government should, as a first step, start making the aviation industry pay for the pollution it creates rather than continuing to allow massive subsidies through exemption from tax on fuel, airplanes and spares.

Further concerns are also raised in the summary, building an overwhelming case against further runways at Stansted. These highlight:

  • The huge impact of noise on the area (seriously understated and misrepresented by the government) and the breaches of air pollution laws which would arise from development and which would significantly compromise the region’s health
  • The fact that, since the government has failed to take into account induced and attracted employment, its forecasts of new employment in the area are some 60-70 per cent too low
  • That because of this the urbanisation of the region has been grossly underestimated, failing to take into account the extra housing which would be needed to attract new workers into the area – in turn leading to the loss of further greenfield sites
  • The inadequate provision outlined for improving the road and rail infrastructure which would be insufficient to sustain the vast increase in traffic which would result
  • The disrespect for current regional planning guidance which states that no new development should take place which imposes heavy pressure on the limited labour and land resources available
  • Current air traffic control problems which could compromise safety

The decision to issue a formal response to the government was taken to make clear to the Department for Transport the concerns held by the campaign group over the impact expansion would have on the countryside, environment and heritage, health, infrastructure and well-being, affecting over three quarters of a million people. It will be a useful benchmark in the many meetings which are planned as part of Stop Stansted Expansion’s programme for the remainder of the consultation.

Additional evidence, particularly on noise and health, reinforcing the case against further development at Stansted, may well be added to the submission before it finally ends, probably in May 2003.

“We believe it is vital that the government and those who can influence them – including local people and politicians – have a ready grasp of both what is at stake and the arguments which can be used to persuade the government to do the right thing,” said Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Norman Mead, commenting on the publication of the summary.

“This document sets out clearly and simply where we are in our thinking and will be invaluable in guiding our media and lobbying activity over the coming months before we make our formal submission.”

Norman Mead, who has campaigned against development of Stansted Airport for over 30 years, also drew attention to the way forward: “While our interim response is completely and utterly committed to opposing further runways at Stansted, there is also discussion of how the government should proceed if it is determined to expand capacity through new airports or runways.”

“A minority of Stop Stansted Expansion members (including CPRE and Friends of the Earth) do not believe that the campaign needs to go further than expressing its outright opposition to expansion,” he continued. “However, the majority view is that if the government refuses to accept this, then the possibility of an innovative solution which meets the long term needs of the country should be considered. This would mean giving consideration to a new offshore airport in the Thames Estuary with a stringent environmental impact assessment.”

While such a solution would inevitably be more expensive than an inland option, it would be capable of delivering additional capacity without giving rise to the significant problems which would be created by the proposals currently under examination.

Members of the public wishing to read the response, summary response or executive summary can access these online. Postal copies are available via the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign office on 01279 870558.

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