17th July 2007
“No basis for BAA’s economic claims” Inquiry Inspector told
The Public Inquiry into the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport must deal with the real world as it has turned out to be, not the hypothetical world as it was wrongly assumed to be when the Air Transport White Paper was published in 2003, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said today (Tuesday 17 July) as it began giving evidence.
Counsel for the campaign group, Paul Stinchcombe, poured scorn on BAA’s argument that the Air Transport White Paper had “settled” the economic argument in favour of the expansion of Stansted and dismissed BAA’s attempt to justify environmental harms – when there was not a shred of evidence of these alleged economic benefits.
“Any assertion that the White Paper does settle the economic case in favour of the maximum use of the existing runway would be unduly prescriptive and wrongfully encroach on your proper role at this Inquiry,” Mr Stinchcombe told the Inspector, Alan Boyland.
SSE’s barrister accused BAA of brandishing the Air Transport White Paper as justification for the environmental impacts of its expansion plans and criticised the airport operator for trying to avoid examination of the economic arguments. The only evidence before the Inquiry of the economic effects of the proposals is that which has been provided by SSE and this clearly demonstrates that the proposed expansion of Stansted would result in an economic detriment, locally, regionally and nationally.
Government support for expansion at Stansted was not sufficient justification for pressing ahead with expansion ‘at any cost’, said Mr Stinchcombe, given the impacts which the proposals would have – particularly when the Government policy was based on nothing more substantial than a high level, generalised review of the economic case.
Nor could the Air Transport White Paper be used to override the powers of Inspectors to consider need for a development at public inquiry, a position clearly stated by the Government during the Judicial Review challenge of the White Paper mounted by SSE and others in 2004. Then, Counsel for the Secretary of State had expressly stated not only that the White Paper did not authorize any development, but that it “merely informed and guided the consideration of planning applications.”
It followed, the Secretary of State’s Counsel went on to submit at that time, that it was both possible and legitimate to argue at any subsequent Inquiry in respect of Stansted that the adverse environmental impacts were such that planning permission should be refused notwithstanding that this would frustrate national policy. This, said Mr Stinchcombe, applied equally to economic impacts.
BAA’s offer of a conditional cap on passenger movements, meanwhile, was nothing more than a ruse to prevent the cumulative environmental impacts of BAA’s real proposals from being assessed, in flagrant denial of the Town and Country Planning Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.
“On BAA’s own evidence,” said Mr Stinchcombe, “the Inquiry can be sure that there will be a further application, either for a second runway or for the lifting of the 35mppa cap. By failing to include all of the forthcoming development within the Environmental Statement, BAA has failed to inform the Inquiry of all of the cumulative effects of the proposed development. A grant of planning permission in the face of this failure would be a breach of the duty set down in the Regulations.”
“For local residents, BAA’s offer of a cap of 35mppa, cynically made, typifies the incrementalist approach to development at Stansted which has so bedeviled its recent planning history,” he concluded.
Copies of SSE’s opening statement are available at the Inquiry or on request from SSE. Transcripts of most Inquiry sessions to date appear online on the Public Inquiry page where the link for the opening statement from 17 July also appears.