17th July 2008

Ruth fiddles while Stansted burns

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Communities Secretary Hazel Blears have signalled a further delay in deciding BAA’s 2006 planning application for the removal of the 25 million annual passenger limit at Stansted Airport.

In a joint letter to the main parties today (17 July 2008) the two Secretaries of State have asked for further representations on a relatively minor aspect of the planning application. The result is that a decision will not now be taken until September at the earliest – some 11 months after the public inquiry ended.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Campaign Director, Carol Barbone commented: “This latest excuse for delay is totally unbelievable. It relates to a matter which could have been dealt with six months ago. One could simply put this down to dithering and inefficiency but we suspect that the Government is deliberately trying to buy more time.”

This latest delay further confuses the situation in relation to BAA’s planning application for a second runway which BAA submitted in March on the assumption that it already had permission to handle 35 million passengers. Because of the Government’s delay in deciding the outcome of the earlier planning application Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has already postponed the closing date for objections to BAA’s second runway application from 26 June to 26 September. A further postponement may now be necessary.

Ms Barbone said: “It is completely unreasonable to expect SSE, UDC and the other major parties to provide a detailed response to BAA’s application for a second runway without knowing the outcome of the earlier planning application and having had a chance to consider the implications of that. The whole situation is now in limbo.”

Meanwhile, passenger throughput at Stansted continues to decline and an announcement today by Ryanair (which accounted for 63% of Stansted’s passengers last year) to reduce its Stansted operations by 14% this winter signals a further sharp decline. SSE expects Stansted Airport to handle 22 million passengers this year compared to the 24 million peak reached last year.

Ms Barbone concluded: “In the current circumstances people are entitled to ask whether BAA is getting slightly ahead of itself with its expansion plans. The demand for stag nights in Prague has clearly declined and this must cast doubt on the need for further expansion.”

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