25th January 2020

SSE calls upon Manchester airports group to respect Uttlesford decision

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called upon the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to respect the Uttlesford District Council (UDC)’s decision to refuse its latest expansion proposals for Stansted Airport, and has urged MAG not to appeal against the decision.

Welcoming the Council’s decision to refuse permission, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “I would firstly like to express appreciation and gratitude to the Uttlesford councillors on the Planning Committee not only for reaching this decision today but also for the very thorough and professional manner in which they have dealt with this Planning Application. I believe that I speak not only for Stop Stansted Expansion in this regard but for almost the entire local community.”

Approval of the Stansted Airport planning application would have allowed 43 million passengers a year, making Stansted almost as big as today’s Gatwick, and would have meant an extra 200 flights a day. [Note 1]

If MAG lodges an appeal against UDC’s refusal to the Secretary of State, the consequence could be a lengthy public inquiry and continued uncertainty for the local community for another year or more.

Ever since MAG first announced its expansion proposals for Stansted, in June 2017, SSE argued that the planning application should be dealt with at national level rather than locally. [Note 2] MAG, however, insisted on local determination, emphasising that UDC was fully capable of deciding its application and was the appropriate body to do so.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “MAG has always insisted that this planning application must be dealt with locally by UDC rather than nationally. The fact that MAG has not obtained the result that it wanted from UDC should not mean that MAG can now simply reverse its position and insist on its application being dealt with at national level. MAG chose the playing field and it should therefore respect the result.”

Peter Sanders continued: “Airports have an insatiable appetite for expansion and it is wholly wrong that we should be forced to keep fighting battle after battle against expansion proposals for Stansted. Local communities should be entitled to some respite and peace of mind.”

Councillors heard that the proposed expansion would result in an extra million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year and that Stansted is already the biggest single source of CO2 emissions in the East of England. With the world facing a climate emergency, many councillors emphasised that the priority was to reduce carbon emissions, not to sanction a planning application that would make matters worse. The proposed expansion would also have meant increased noise, air pollution and health risks for residents not only in the vicinity of the airport and under flightpaths, but also over a wider area.

SSE made a 40-minute presentation to the UDC Planning Committee at their marathon (7-hour) meeting on Friday (24 January), explaining the environmental, economic, health and other impacts of the airport expansion proposals. [Note 3]

After extensive consideration of the evidence, the UDC Planning Committee concluded that the combined detrimental effects of the increased noise, carbon emissions, air pollution and health risks decisively outweighed any potential benefits of approving the application. When it came to the vote, 10 members of the Committee voted to refuse the application, none voted to approve and there were two abstentions. The vote would have been unanimous had it not been for the fact that two members of the Committee who were also members of SSE considered it inappropriate to vote.

Before the vote was taken, the Chief Executive of Stansted Airport, Ken O’Toole, thanked “the UDC members and officers for the time and effort they have devoted to carefully and professionally considering our application, particularly over the past few months”.

Despite this praise for the Council’s officers and members of its Planning Committee, MAG has not ruled out the option of an appeal. If there is an appeal, SSE has pledged itself to support UDC in presenting the case at public inquiry. This should assist in minimising costs whilst also sharing technical expertise.


Note 1: Passenger numbers at Stansted have been in decline for the past six months. The airport handled 28 million passengers last year with 199,000 flights. It has permission to handle 35 million passengers which would mean annual flight numbers increasing to 227,000. The planning application sought approval for an extra 8 million passengers a year, which would mean annual flight numbers increasing to 274,000 – i.e. an extra 75,000 flights a year compared to today which is an average of 205 per day.

Note 2: A High Court judgment is still awaited on SSE’s legal challenge against the decision of the Secretary of State for Transport to allow the Stansted Airport planning application to be determined locally by UDC rather than dealt with by the Government as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ (NSIP). The case was heard in the High Court in November 2019. However, now that UDC has overturned its original approval, a ruling favourable to SSE may no longer be necessary.

Note 3: The SSE slide presentation to the UDC Planning Committee on 24 November 2020 can be seen here.

Note 4: Stop Stansted Expansion was established in 2002 in response to Government proposals for major expansion at Stansted Airport. SSE has some 7,500 members and registered online supporters including 150 parish and town councils and local residents’ groups and national and local environmental organisations. Our objective is to contain the development of Stansted Airport within tight limits that are truly sustainable and, in this way, to protect the quality of life of residents over wide areas of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, to preserve our heritage and to protect the natural environment.

Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman: 01799 520411; petersanders77@talktalk.net
Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: T 01279 814540 or (M) 07850 937143; brian.ross@lineone.net
SSE Campaign Office, T 01279 870558; info@stanstedairportwatch.com

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