25th October 2016

SSE response to Government decision on new runways

After more than four years of deliberation, the Government has finally announced that it will support the development of a new runway at Heathrow. This long-awaited decision is consistent with the unanimous recommendation of the independent Airports Commission set up by the Government four years ago under the chairmanship of Sir Howard Davies.

Gatwick was also on the Airport Commission’s shortlist for a new runway but the Government was virtually silent on the Gatwick option to-day, saying only that it “wants to see the continued prosperity of the world’s busiest single runway airport.”

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is obviously relieved that Stansted was not even mentioned in today’s Government announcement. However, there may now be considerable pressure to make maximum use of the available capacity at Stansted. The Government is expected to say more about this in January, when it publishes its draft National Policy Statement (NPS) for UK airports.

A new runway at Heathrow will take ten years to build and, with Heathrow and Gatwick already close to full capacity, other airports in the south east, including Stansted, will be expected to accommodate the growing demand in the meantime. Stansted currently handles 24 million passengers per annum (mppa) and it has permission for 35mppa.

Technically, Stansted could potentially cater for up to 45mppa on its existing runway. However, this would need planning consent, and we would not expect consent to be granted unless the airport could demonstrate that this level of throughput could be achieved without significant detriment to local residents and the local environment.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “Not so long ago Stansted was first in the queue for a new runway and so it’s a great relief not to be in that position today. However we had to fight that runway proposal tooth and nail for eight years until it was finally abandoned. There will undoubtedly be a similar campaign of opposition to a new runway at Heathrow and so it would be premature for anyone to assume that this issue has now been settled.”

Peter Sanders continued: “It is also important to recognise that even without an extra runway, the number of passengers handled by Stansted could increase by 90%, so this is no time to be complacent. There will be important planning battles to be fought in the coming years.”



  • In September 2012, the Government appointed Sir Howard Davies to chair an independent Airports Commission with the task of considering all the options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation.
  • The Commission’s final report, published in July 2015, unanimously recommended a new runway at Heathrow. It described a Gatwick runway as a credible alternative.
  • The Government’s decision to support a new runway at Heathrow still needs to be approved by MPs and that will not happen for another 12-15 months. Before MPs can vote, there needs to be an extensive public consultation process and a lengthy scrutiny process by a parliamentary committee.
  • The Government will begin the consultation process next January by publishing a draft National Policy Statement (NPS) for UK airports. The centrepiece of this will be the Government’s proposal for a third runway at Heathrow. It is also likely to include draft proposals for the long term development of Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham and other UK airports.


Peter Sanders – T 01799 520411; petersanders77@talktalk.net

Brian Ross, SSE – T 01279 814961; M 07850 937143; brian.ross@lineone.net (Points made in this press release can be attributed to Brian Ross)

SSE Campaign Office, T 01279 870558; info@stanstedairportwatch.com

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