1st July 2015

SSE response to Airport Commission final report

This morning (1 July 2015), the Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, published its Final Report after almost three years of independent analysis and investigation. It is now for the Government to consider the Commission’s recommendations, and it could be as late as December before the Government announces its final decisions.

The Commission’s main recommendation is that there should be a third runway at Heathrow. Further, the Commission believes that there may be sufficient demand to justify one other additional runway in the UK by 2050. However, the Commission emphasises that this would also need to be justified on economic and environmental and that no decisions should be taken until the impacts of the new Heathrow runway have been independently evaluated.

Whilst Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is obviously relieved that the Commission has not recommended an extra runway at Stansted, it has never been part of SSE’s policy to seek to transfer the problems associated with major airport expansion onto the doorsteps of the communities living around other airports. In SSE’s view the need for additional runways in the UK has been greatly exaggerated by the aviation industry. Business travel has been declining for 15 years and now accounts for less than a sixth of all international travel from UK airports. Moreover, the total number of flights (business and leisure) from UK airports has grown less than 1 per cent over the past 15 years.

If additional runway capacity is provided in the South East it will stifle the growth prospects for airports elsewhere in the UK. In addition it will make it virtually impossible for the UK to meet its climate change targets. It therefore seems inevitable that there will be a series of legal challenges to the Commission’s recommendations.

So far as Stansted is concerned, the Commission simply states that:
“…there may be a case for reviewing the [35 mppa] planning cap if and when the airport moves closer to full capacity. Its forecasts indicate that this would not occur until at least the 2030s.”

This is in line with what the Commission said in its Interim Report and it will, of course, be dependent upon demand. Stansted currently caters for 21.5 million passengers per annum (mppa) which is exactly the same throughput as 10 years ago and so it is clear that there is currently no case for raising the existing planning cap of 35 mppa.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “Ten years ago Stansted was first in the queue for a new runway to serve London. Today’s report marks a remarkable turnaround and that must come as a great relief to our local community.”

Peter Sanders continued: “There is no doubt that the Commission has examined the issues conscientiously and in painstaking detail but for the reasons given above we disagree with many aspects of the Report.”

Peter Sanders concluded: “It looks as if it will be the end of this year before the Government makes its final decision(s) and having regard to the likelihood of legal challenges, there may well be a longer period of uncertainty. Whatever the timescale, SSE will continue to play a full part in the debate for as long as it takes to ensure that no-one is allowed to ride roughshod over the interests of this local community.”



The Airport Commission’s final report can be accessed here.

It was almost three years ago – 7 September 2012 – when the Government announced that it had appointed Sir Howard Davies to chair an independent Commission tasked with identifying and recommending options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation. The Commission’s terms of reference required it to report no later than summer 2015 on:

1. Its assessment of the options for meeting the UK’s international connectivity needs, including their economic, social and environmental impact;
2. Its recommendation(s) for the optimum approach to meeting any needs; and
3. Its recommendation(s) for ensuring that the need is met as expeditiously as practicable within the required timescale.

SSE has engaged fully with the Commission from the outset and has made a total of ten separate evidence submissions as well as a presentation to the Commission at a public evidence session, the only local community group to have been invited to do so.

SSE warmly welcomes the Commission’s recommendations for an independent noise ombudsman and for a noise levy to be charged for each passenger using an airport with the proceeds used to support local environmental and community projects.

Today’s confirmation by Sir Howard Davies that there is no case for an extra runway at Stansted is the same conclusion as reached on each of the three previous occasions when Government allowed an independent body to consider airports policy for the South East. Each time – Blake in 1966, Roskill in 1971, Eyre in 1984 – it was concluded that Stansted should not be developed beyond the capacity of its existing single runway.


Peter Sanders – T 01799 520411; petersanders77@talktalk.net
Brian Ross, SSE, T 01279 814961; (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