31st January 2005
Stansted campaigners warn against any complacency in airport fight
“Our community. our responsibility… our perseverance. our victory” was the rallying call of Sir Alan Haselhurst MP addressing Stop Stansted Expansion’s (SSE) community conference yesterday (31 January).
MPs and MEPs, council leaders and parish representatives joined local people to form a 200-strong audience at the Stansted Hilton to hear an update on the progress of the campaign and future plans.
Sir Alan spoke of the many successes of the campaign to date which were shifting opinion within Parliament, the City, in the media and further afield.
He lambasted the incrementalist approach adopted to expansion over the years by BAA and highlighted as an example the lack of investment in rail services to the airport. Local commuters were already suffering as a result, a situation which would worsen with any further expansion because of BAA’s lack of real commitment to the rail investment needed now, let alone in the future.
Delegates were in upbeat mood about the progress being made by SSE but Campaign Director Carol Barbone warned against any complacency in the ongoing fight against the airport expansion plans and called on those present to make their voices heard and their actions count.
“All it would take for expansion to prevail would be for good men and women to do nothing,” she said. “We must never underestimate our opponents or the scale of the challenge before us.”
Speakers from SSE dealt in detail with the SSE programme for deploying legal, financial and planning challenges as a means of forcing BAA to rethink its airport expansion proposals.
Campaign members from Broxted, Hatfield Broad Oak, Manuden and Stansted Mountfitchet addressed the conference to show the many and varied ways in which local people and their representatives could play their part in supporting the campaign.
The theme running through the conference was “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” as a reminder of the enormous environmental impact of further expansion of Stansted on the scale proposed by BAA.
Peter Sanders, Chairman of SSE, quoted Inspector Graham Eyre who headed the Stansted Airport public inquiry 20 years ago which rejected a second runway. Eyre had concluded that expansion of Stansted beyond 25 million passengers per year would be an “environmental catastrophe”.
“It beggars belief that BAA is now considering expanding Stansted to accommodate 82 million passengers annually which is more than any other airport in the world today,” said Mr Sanders.
“BAA will have to demonstrate that Eyre was wrong,” he continued. “And it won’t be good enough to say that Eyre’s warning is no longer relevant because of the increase in demand. Nor will it be good enough to say, oh don’t worry, everything will be done subject to strict environmental controls. How do you inflict an environmental catastrophe subject to strict environmental controls? Again, that argument won’t be good enough for Uttlesford District Council as the planning authority, or for any even half-competent Inspector at public inquiry.”