27th March 2003

Heritage Ally steps in to Help Defend Historic Buildings

Hundreds of historic buildings at risk from airport expansion plans for Stansted have 8000 potential new allies amongst the members of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) who could help save them from being bulldozed if government proposals for extra runways are allowed to go ahead.

The SPAB has stepped into the arena to join the fight against the government’s plans, declaring its formal support for the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign, because of the direct and indirect threats posed to historic buildings, sites, settlements and landscapes by the proposals.

An additional one, two or three extra runways at the airport would mean increasing the size of the current airport site by up to two and a half times to nearly 5000 acres, devouring good quality agricultural land and countryside.

Three extra runways would mean the destruction of 326 homes, 64 Grade II and one Grade II* Listed Buildings. Two scheduled ancient monuments (Waltham Manor and The Grange) would also disappear, even if only one extra runway were to be added. Under the proposals for three extra runways, Grade I Listed Building Warish Hall and Takeley Priory, which lies in its grounds, could also be lost. Meanwhile, vast swathes of ancient woodland, lanes and hedgerows – the setting for many other historic houses just beyond the perimeter of the proposed new runways – would disappear forever, vastly diminishing their charm.

The society’s members nationwide will not only make their views known to the Secretary of State for Transport through Stop Stansted Expansion’s letter writing campaign but the SPAB will also work with its strong regional membership to promote greater awareness of the houses under threat through a series of special initiatives currently being prepared. These include an online pictorial catalogue of threatened properties and a series of open days in June.

As at Heathrow, Gatwick and Cliffe, the wider impact on the historic environment outside the area which would be concreted over if expansion were to take place is especially worrying. Tilty Church, for example, is an outstanding example of monastic architecture whose future could be jeopardised. Just as significant is the dramatic degradation of the ancient hamlets and villages that characterise the countryside surrounding the airport. The construction of new airport buildings, the commercial development that will follow in its wake, the big increase in housing for new staff and the widening of narrow country lanes would transform the historic nature of the area.

It is not the first time that the society has offered its support to the area: together with Stop Stansted Expansion’s parent organisation, the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association, it actively and successfully opposed expansion proposals in the early 1990’s in the RUCATSE (Runway Capacity To Serve The South East) study on whether or not to add an additional runway at Stansted.

Said Philip Venning, Secretary of the SPAB: “Even under the options of one or two extra runways the cost to heritage is extreme. It should certainly not be portrayed as an acceptable compromise that somehow balances heritage concerns with the needs of airlines. We are therefore hoping every one of our members will write to the Secretary of State for Transport to express his or her concerns about airport expansion and also urge local people concerned to protect their heritage to take action now.”

Please support the fight to protect our ancient buildings by writing to the Secretary of State for Transport, opposing the plans for more runways, even if you have previously written to him on another aspect of the airport expansion proposals. Click here for ideas on points to make or here for a sample letter.

Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Norman Mead welcomed the backing being given by the SPAB, adding: “The value of heritage and the role it plays in enriching us all is often disregarded by governments in their drive to satisfy business interests. The region would be a poorer place – and significantly less attractive to both local people and tourists – if we were to allow these treasures to disappear or be degraded by the imposition of the world’s largest airport at Stansted.”


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