27th April 2006

Don’t be fooled by BAA’S claims on runway expansion

BAA’s application to make Stansted the busiest single runway airport in the world has been described as a blatant attempt to hoodwink the community by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE).

The airport developer is seeking unlimited use of the existing Stansted runway in terms of passenger numbers by using the runway to its maximum capacity which it estimates at 264,000 commercial flights a year. Just over 22 million passengers currently use the airport annually.

BAA is describing the application as “purely” a variation on the current condition limits. However, the very real effects of further expansion, if given the go-ahead by planning authority Uttlesford District Council, would be felt far and wide across the region. BAA is asking for Stansted to become bigger than Gatwick and, in fact, the most intensely used single runway airport in the world.

As an indication of the impacts, BAA’s proposals would, if approved, result in an extra quarter of a million people travelling to and from the airport every week, largely by road, and an increase from an average 490 commercial flights per day to 723 per day – an increase of 48 per cent. Once again, BAA is claiming that its proposals would not require any new investment in road or rail upgrades – a cost which BAA would otherwise have to bear.

These numbers are based on BAA’s claim that the airport would grow to handle 35 million passengers a year by 2014 but this is widely regarded as a significant understatement of what would actually happen. Historically, BAA has a record of revising its forecasts upwards as soon as planning consent is obtained. BAA has itself acknowledged that the runway could handle 40 million passengers a year whilst others have estimated that 45 million or even 50 million passengers could be handled on the existing runway.

BAA’s attempts to play down the impacts of its application have been condemned as “par for the course” by SSE whose long-standing objective is to contain the development of Stansted Airport within tight limits that are truly sustainable. SSE is now in the process of going through BAA’s planning application with a fine toothcomb, knowing that the projected environmental impacts have been produced by highly-paid BAA consultants whose role is to assist BAA in getting its proposals through.

SSE’s Campaign Director stressed the importance of seeing beyond the gloss beyond presented by BAA and urged those responsible for determining the application to make sure they weren’t deceived by BAA’s spin.

“The application will not be about bricks and mortar, but about the direct and indirect effects of an airport handling more passengers than Gatwick today,”she said. “This application is the thin end of the wedge and BAA will have a very tough job on its hands persuading people that further expansion could be sustainable. Pressures on the road and rail system, local air quality, water usage, landscape and climate change would be enormous.”

“In determining the application Uttlesford District Council must take account of its statutory duties to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development so that the people of this area are not sold short,” she continued. “The onus is on BAA to demonstrate how its proposals for further expansion on the existing runway could truly be sustainable in terms of the effects on local people and the environment. Our elected representatives must not be hoodwinked by a BAA charm offensive aimed at getting approval for its proposals whatever the cost to the local community and the environment.”

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