26th February 2003

Put People before Planes say Stansted Campaigners

Issued in response to the Department for Transport’s restarted consultation
on the Future Development of Air Transport Capacity: South East
Stop Stansted Expansion has condemned as blinkered the government’s single minded focus on expanding Gatwick Airport in the restarted consultation on expanding air transport capacity in the south east.

Instead, it says, the government should have given more attention to the role which fairer pricing might play in containing demand and also to the potential role of offshore airport solutions.

Stop Stansted Expansion will now be taking legal advice and consulting with local authorities and others to determine whether to challenge the Government’s failure to consult the public on the option of offshore airport development. It will also examine the revised questionnaires to identify whether the inaccuracies and extreme bias displayed in the original documents have been properly addressed.

The only encouraging sign is Alistair Darling’s declared intention to consider reasonable alternatives in the preparation of the White Paper which will appear at the end of the year.

Said campaign chairman Norman Mead: “Alistair Darling has one more chance to demonstrate that he is prepared to put people before planes. We have seen today that the government simply hasn’t listened to the responses to the initial consultation which begs the question of whether it is really interested in a meaningful consultation at all. The Department for Transport has clearly been overwhelmed by representations from BAA and the aviation industry and has completely ignored the voice of the people. This balance needs to be redressed.”

Stop Stansted Expansion believes that a strategic review of airports policy for the next 30 years should by its very nature consider the fundamentals and examine alternatives. It should be an opportunity to re-shape policy rather than simply react.

While the campaign group was a party to the successful judicial review to quash the original consultation and force the government to include Gatwick, it in no way advocates development there any more than at Stansted or other mainland sites in the south east.

Instead, Stop Stansted Expansion argues that demand in the foreseeable future can be managed by better use of existing runway capacity including satisfying the need for more flights from regional airports and forcing the removal of unfair subsidies to the aviation industry and bringing about an end to the false market which has been created because of the extensive tax exemptions which airlines enjoy.

If, longer term, a sustainable case can be made for more capacity, the ‘least worst’ solution would be an offshore airport. This would remove the need to destroy people’s homes, vast tracts of countryside and wildlife. Under such a solution, aircraft would take off and land over the sea, reducing the impact of noise and emissions on the population.

Concluded Norman Mead: “The government is putting the agenda of the powerful aviation lobby – lock stock and barrel – with its clear vested interest in expanding the existing airports around London, ahead of the interests of the environment and of the people who have to suffer the consequences of these ill-advised expansion plans.”

Stansted is threatened by government proposals to add up to three extra runways which would expand capacity at the airport from just over 15 million passengers per year as at present to a massive 82 million with one extra runway or 129 million with three – double the size that Heathrow Airport is today.

Local people throughout the region are concerned not only by the substantial impact which an enlarged airport and a fivefold increase in flights would have, but also by the major urbanisation which would occur if expansion goes ahead on the scale proposed.

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