20th November 2006

Climate crisis moves Stansted centre stage

A planning application from airport operator BAA which could lead to a doubling of the number of passengers handled by Stansted Airport on its single runway is set to be refused by Uttlesford District Council when its planning committee meets next week. This will set the stage for a key test of the Government’s commitment to tackling climate change and to addressing the rapidly growing problem of aviation emissions.

Planning officers from Uttlesford District Council, the local planning authority responsible for Stansted, have recommended that the application should be turned down when the Council’s Development Control Committee meets on 29 November. Nine grounds for refusal are cited.

In recommending refusal, officers specifically refer to the conclusions of the Stern report on the economics of climate change and to last year’s Tyndall Centre report showing that the rapid growth in air travel was threatening to wipe out all other savings in carbon emissions. They also highlight the recent report from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute which called upon the Government to confront the contradictions in its policies, saying: “Unless the rate of growth in flights is curbed, the UK cannot fulfil its commitments on climate change.”

It is widely expected that BAA will launch an immediate appeal if, as expected, its application is refused, leading to a public inquiry. The final decision would then rest with the Government, bringing into focus the glaring contradiction between its stated commitment to tackling climate change and its controversial policy of supporting major airport expansion to accommodate a near trebling of air travel over the next 25 years, set down in its 2003 Air Transport White Paper.

The White Paper also proposed a second runway for Stansted but the refusal of BAA’s initial planning application for making full use of the existing runway is almost certain to further delay these plans. Initially, the Government wanted to see a second runway at Stansted by 2011/12 but even before this latest setback, BAA was predicting that this could not be achieved before 2015.

Stansted has expanded dramatically in recent years – from handling less than 4 million passengers in 1996 to an expected 24 million this year – mostly as a result of the rapid growth in cheap leisure flights. Ryanair and Easyjet account for about 9 out of 10 of all flights from Stansted.

Refusal of the Stansted planning application will come as a major blow to Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure group which bought BAA’s airports at a hefty price tag of £10.5bn earlier this year. Since the purchase, BAA has been beset by problems including the UK airport security crisis during the summer and an OFT investigation which is likely to lead to a full scale inquiry into its UK airports monopoly by the Competition Commission

The Government is due to publish a progress report on the implementation of its 2003 Air Transport White Paper before the end of the year.

Peter Sanders, Chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion commented: “We are delighted that there will be very little progress to report and very much hope that the Government will recognise that it is time for a fundamental review of its airport expansion policies which are wholly contradictory to the imperative of tackling climate change.”

The full text of the recommendation from UDC planning officers can be viewed on the Council’s website by entering the search term UTT/0717/06/FUL at: https://publicaccess.uttlesford.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple&searchType=Application

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