13th January 2020
SSE urges council – don’t jump the gun
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is urging Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to await the final outcome of SSE’s High Court challenge as well as the publication of the Government’s new aviation policy – both expected at any time – before making a decision on the current Stansted Airport planning application.
Uttlesford planning officers have been pressing their councillors to decide the controversial planning application as soon as possible and have set a timetable which could mean that councillors would be forced to vote at a Special Meeting of the Planning Committee scheduled for Friday 24 January. For more than a year officers have been recommending that councillors should approve the airport planning application.
The application was submitted by Stansted’s owners, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), in February 2018. If approved it would allow an additional 15 million passengers (54% increase) and an additional 75,000 flights a year (38% increase) compared to 2019. SSE has objected to the application from the outset, primarily because of the additional noise, air pollution and carbon emissions and the consequential health impacts on local residents over a wide area.
This is a highly complex planning application where the documentation extends to over 13,000 pages. Even before it was submitted, SSE argued strongly that it should be dealt with by the Government’s expert team which examines nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), rather than by the local council.
Planning applications for expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton are all currently being considered at national level, as NSIPs rather than locally. Uttlesford is alone in trying to deal with the Stansted application at local level. Uttlesford is one of the smallest local authorities in England and inevitably has limited resources and limited expertise with regard to airport development. On top of all this, its planning officers are heavily committed on work relating to the new Local Plan, its first update for 15 years.
The central issue in SSE’s legal challenge is whether the current airport planning application should be decided locally or nationally. The case was heard in the High Court in mid-November and the judge’s decision is expected at any time. It would be illogical, and would potentially give rise to substantial and unnecessary legal costs, if UDC were to attempt to determine the application locally before the final outcome of these High Court proceedings clarifies the legal position.
Also imminently expected is the new Aviation White Paper setting out the Government’s long term policy for the future development of UK airports and the wider aviation industry. This will be only the third Aviation White Paper since 1985 and it will define the Government’s updated approach towards controlling aircraft noise, air pollution and carbon emissions. All of these matters are highly relevant to the consideration of the current airport planning application.
SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “It is fully appreciated that enormous pressure is being put upon our local council by the airport and various lobbyists to decide the current planning application. We would however urge the council not to be swayed by this pressure, or by any sweeteners offered by Stansted Airport. It is common sense that the Planning Committee should await the decision of the High Court and also the new Aviation White Paper, both of which are imminently expected.”
Mr Sanders concluded: “There is no rush to settle this matter. Stansted has plenty of headroom for growth under its existing planning permission and the fact is that passenger numbers have been in decline for the past six months. This is a time for calm reflection, not a potentially costly, hasty decision.”
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman: 01799 520411; firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: T 01279 814540 or (M) 07850 937143; email@example.com
SSE Campaign Office, T 01279 870558; firstname.lastname@example.org