28th September 2006

Concerns mount over Council’s position on airport expansion

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) faced mounting concern from local people yesterday (27 September) about its postponement of a decision on BAA’s planning application, which could lead to a doubling of passengers using Stansted Airport.

About 100 people gathered outside the Council’s Saffron Walden offices ahead of a key planning committee meeting. (See photographs)

Their fears about the postponement were accentuated by concerns that UDC had decided not to press BAA for important information about the environmental and other impacts of its expansion proposals for which it had previously asked.

Inside the Council Chamber, the Development Control Committee, which is responsible for dealing with the planning application, had initially been due to make a final decision that afternoon, but this has now been delayed until 29 November.

Stop Stansted Expansion’s Chairman, Peter Sanders, was given an opportunity to address the Committee to voice the concerns of the local community.


“Thank you, Chairman, for this opportunity to speak to the Committee. It is immensely important that the Council should not be lulled or led into any belief that this application doesn’t really matter, that it’s merely a preliminary to the really big application, that for the second runway, which may or may not be made next year. Because if you started to think along those lines you’d be falling once again into the trap of the insidious step-by-step process that has allowed the airport to advance, slowly but remorselessly, over the years. This is a hugely important application in its own right, especially as there is no limit on the proposed number of passenger movements and the Council is effectively being asked to sign a blank cheque.

SSE’s position is that it should be rejected without further delay. Today, this afternoon, Councillors already have enough information to justify such a decision. It is often said that we have to weigh up economic considerations against environmental considerations. As we have shown in our submission, that is not the case here, since this proposal would have seriously damaging effects, not just on the environment, but on the local, regional and national economies as well. It is not a question of balancing economic against environmental considerations. If you want the see-saw balancing analogy, then nearly all the arguments are at the same end of the see-saw.

We understand however that the Council is asking for more information. Leaving aside the question of responsibility for the delay, it is quite clear that, though asked for it nearly two years ago, BAA has still failed to provide information on the Airport Masterplan, or on carbon emissions, or on the Quality of Life Assessment, to name just three areas on which it has failed to respond to the Council. BAA has treated the Council, in our view, dismissively, even contemptuously. Nearly all the outstanding information, all the information that BAA has failed to provide, will be detrimental to the application.

We have seen the Regulation 19 letter: in our view it is not strong enough. We believe that the Council should ask for everything that it originally required in its Scoping Opinion. Otherwise why ask for it in the first place? We are being told that there are legal reasons for this. If that is the case then those reasons should be shared with the public.

As you know, we are deeply concerned about the Position Statement. It lacks balance, not only in terms of the arguments and evidence presented but also in terms of the government policies quoted. Our submission, like those of many others, has not been properly taken into account. Non-BAA submissions are in a separate document: it is if we’ve been shunted off into a siding, while the real argument is going on instead on the main line, in the main text of the Position Statement. We have made these points in our letter to Councillors, and would be very pleased to provide a detailed checklist if the Council felt that this would be helpful.

Do remember that the Department for Transport submitted a letter to the Judicial Review acknowledging that, notwithstanding Government policy supporting expansion at Stansted, if in the light of an adverse environmental assessment it was considered that expansion was unsustainable, then it would be open to the local authority to reject the planning application. So when Government departments say that economic and social considerations outweigh the environmental considerations, that doesn’t preclude the Council from making a contrary finding.

If the Council is careful and thorough in its approach to this application, and if the issues don’t become clouded as a result of drift and delay, then there can only be one outcome, and that is a firm and unequivocal refusal.”

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