5th March 2007

Pre-Inquiry meeting into airport expansion

Battle rules for Stansted Public Inquiry to be decided next week

The first salvos in the forthcoming Public Inquiry into whether the current 25 million annual passenger limit on Stansted Airport should be removed will be fired next week. A special Pre-Inquiry Meeting chaired by Planning Inspector Alan Boyland is to be held on Monday 5 March to agree the ground rules for the Inquiry which will begin at the end of May. As well as the main protagonists – BAA, Uttlesford District Council and Stop Stansted Expansion – members of the public will be able to attend and speak.

The meeting will take place at the Council’s Saffron Walden offices in London Road, starting at 2pm, and will provide an important opportunity for members of the public and community representatives to ensure that the Inquiry is going to be accessible, transparent in its operation and will not discriminate against those whose resources are more limited than those of BAA.

SSE will be making clear its concerns that the intention to hold the Inquiry on BAA premises – Stansted Airport’s Endeavour House – sends entirely the wrong signal to the community about the neutrality of the venue. Allowing BAA to host the Inquiry would inevitably give rise to perceptions that independence and impartiality of the proceedings could be undermined and that BAA would have an unfair advantage.

This view is known to be shared by councillors from Takeley and Broxted parishes adjacent to the airport.  There are also concerns about the accessibility of the proposed venue for those who would need to be reliant upon public transport to attend the Inquiry.

SSE will be pressing for a neutral venue and for outreach sessions to take place as part of the Inquiry in order to give the Inspector a true flavour of the extent of concern about airport impacts across a wide geographical area and the reasons for this.

Members of the public who have previously expressed their concerns in writing about the application either to UDC or to the Planning Inspectorate since BAA’s appeal was announced will also have an opportunity to make their requests to speak at the Public Inquiry at Monday’s meeting although acceptance is at the Inspector’s discretion. Further details about registering to speak at the Inquiry and other aspects of the preparations are available on SSE’s website www.stanstedairportwatch.com – see the Public Inquiry section linked from the home page – or from the SSE campaign office on 01279 870558.

At the Pre-Inquiry Meeting SSE will be represented by barrister Sarah Hannett from 4-5 Grays Inn Square Chambers who last year worked on the Coventry Airport Inquiry. Meanwhile, SSE’s internal preparations and its work with expert witnesses and specialist representatives for the Public Inquiry continues apace, underpinned by a fundraising appeal for £100,000 of which some £60,000 has already been raised.

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