8th January 2004
Put your cards on the table BAA – and let battle commence!
Stop Stansted Expansion has left BAA in no doubt that it faces intense opposition to its plans for a second Stansted runway. At a packed public meeting the community campaign group outlined its plans for blocking proposals that would make Stansted bigger than Heathrow.
“No way BAA” was the message at the first public meeting since publication of the Government’s White Paper on the future of aviation.
“The battle ahead will be a test of our resolve and determination,” said Norman Mead, SSE chairman, at the meeting at Stansted Mountfitchet High School (Thursday, 8 January 2004). “Do not underestimate the lengths that BAA will go to in order to achieve its ambitions. They will use every trick in the book to try and divide this local community and break our resolve. Do not be intimidated by this,” he said.
He promised a relentless campaign of challenges for BAA – legal, commercial, planning and regulatory – based on hard evidence – that any proposals for second runway must be rejected on environmental or economic grounds.
He lambasted the White Paper for dismissing the environmental case, ignoring the opportunity to restrain growth through removing aviation’s tax exemptions, and failing to acknowledge the existance of alternative solutions.
He had harsh words on BAA’s monopoly position and the White Paper’s ‘soft and meaningless words’ about protecting communities from noise and the impact of air quality. “Basically, it concludes that it’s your tough luck if you live near an airport,” he said.
At the meeting chaired by Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, residents from across Essex and Hertfordshire discussed the next stage of the campaign with leading members of SSE’s Executive Committee. In response to questions about SSE’s upbeat mood, the panel listed several reasons for feeling confident:
* The fact that a second runway was proposed in the White Paper did not mean it would happen. The White Paper was not law – or above the law. It would have to go through an ‘assault course’ of planning and legal challenges as well as health and environmental assessments
* The Government did not build runways – that would be down to BAA. Stansted was not commercially viable on a stand-alone basis; the CAA had ruled out cross-subsidy from Heathrow; and a further £4 billion investment at Stansted could not meet the required condition of commercial viability.
* The major airlines were not interested in coming to Stansted and low-cost airlines would not pay for a second runway.
* The Government had made clear that the White Paper did not authorise a second runway at Stansted, had given an undertaking not to promote this and had made clear that the policies set out in the White Paper will be subject to periodic review.
The SSE team reminded the audience that a second runway would make Stansted bigger than Heathrow. Because of sheer scale, it would destabilise rather than benefit the local economy. In an area of virtually no unemployment, the massive influx of people would put pressure on the local labour market and at the lower end of the housing market.
Major airport expansion would make the area over-dependent on a single source of employment – especially one that would fail the test of economic and environmental sustainability.
Further support came from Cllr Mike Hibbs, Chairman of Uttlesford District Council, and Jeff Gazzard, Director of AirportWatch. Maggie Sutton, one of SSE’s community representatives whose home would be demolished if expansion went ahead, was on the question and answer panel together with SSE’s team of experts covering health, the environment, noise, economics and aviation technology.
Norman Mead challenged BAA saying: “Let us have your planning application – and let us have it quickly. Put your cards on the table and let battle commence.” Addressing BAA directly, he said: “If you think that you can bulldoze the spirit of this community and then go on to bulldoze our local heritage, people’s homes and this priceless local environment – think again!
“This community is made of sterner stuff. We will fight you with passion and with all the professional expertise we have developed over the past 18 months. Do not under-estimate the people of this area – all of whom send you this simple message – No way BAA!”