21st May 2003

BAA’s ‘Blackadder’ Plot is Heathrow by the Back Door

In what Stop Stansted Expansion describes as a plot worthy of a Blackadder script, the Essex-based campaign group slammed the ‘duplicity’ of BAA’s announcement asking the Government to approve two new runways for Stansted.

Examination of the small print in BAA’s submission by campaigners shows that the airport operator is suggesting that a new runway to the north should be staggered 2500 metres from the north-east end of the existing runway rather than 1300 metres as outlined in the Government proposals. BAA acknowledges that this would provide more capacity – but declines to state how much.

Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Norman Mead has accused BAA of stealth tactics for proposing a revised runway layout which would achieve virtually the same capacity with two extra runways at Stansted as the three extra runway proposal included in the Government consultation.

“The Government’s most extreme proposal for Stansted was for three new runways giving a total capacity of 129 million passengers a year – twice the scale of Heathrow,” said Norman Mead. “BAA appeared to be saying last week that this was unsustainable but now that we have seen the detail of their submission, it is obvious that they are trying to achieve that same capacity – but with two extra runways rather than three.”

Campaigners became more suspicious when they noticed that BAA has asked for ‘flexibility’ to develop a second and third runway in either order. When this gets out, local communities will be furious.” said Mr Mead. “It will add even more uncertainty for thousands of families who already feel threatened. This is applying for a second Heathrow by the back door.”

If runways are placed far enough apart each can have a capacity of around 43 million passengers a year. BAA estimates that two wide spaced runways at Stansted could handle about 85 million passengers a year but it doesn’t say what extra capacity it would achieve with a third runway if this was also pushed much further away from the existing one. Stop Stansted Expansion estimates that capacity would be at least 115 million with this layout and, as technology improves and the average size of aircraft increases, believes that the capacity of Stansted with two extra runways in this new configuration could easily reach 129 million passengers a year – eight times its present size.

“Now we know why BAA said last week that it would settle for two runways” says Mr Mead. “This is the sort of cunning plan that Baldrick might come up with in an episode of Black Adder. BAA have shown once again that they are not to be trusted. We just cannot accept anything they say at face value.”

It is not entirely clear how much new land beyond that described in the SERAS proposals for a three runway airport would be taken. However, it seems that East End Wood (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) would be destroyed while Pledgdon Green would be virtually at the threshold of the new runway.

Stansted’s existing runway handled 16 million passengers last year and approval was given earlier this year for this to increase to 25 million a year.

Rail loop slammed…

BAA is also suggesting a new rail loop linking the airport directly with the London-Cambridge main line near Harlow Mill to the south and near Newport to the north. BAA argues that this would reduce delays to the Stansted Express caused by local commuter trains which stop at Bishop’s Stortford and Sawbridgeworth.

“This is yet another sign of BAA’s arrogance”, continued Norman Mead “They want the airport to have priority over local commuters on the rail link to London and are proposing further massive destruction of the countryside to achieve this. This new proposed rail loop would inevitably affect even more villages around the airport as well as Hatfield Forest, owned by the National Trust. Do they seriously expect us to roll over and accept this?”

Norman Mead concluded: “If ever we needed a wake-up call about the scale of the threat we are facing, then BAA has provided this for us last week. Three times in the past 35 years we have fought similar battles against BAA’ s insatiable appetite for more runways at Stansted and three times we have defeated them based on the strength of the public outcry. The consultation period runs until the 30 June and I hope everyone who hasn’t yet written to Alistair Darling will do so while there is still time. BAA has just handed us some fresh ammunition.”

Further information on how to respond to the consultation by letter or by completion of selected sections of the consultation questionnaire is available from Stop Stansted Expansion on T 01279 870558 or at info@stopstanstedexpansion.com

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