17th April 2021

Stop Stansted Expansion to be succeeded by Stansted Airport Watch

Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the annual general meeting (AGM) of SSE’s parent organisation next month. [Notes 1 and 2]

SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes as follows:

“Regardless of the outcome of the recent Public Inquiry, it is very unlikely that Stansted will apply for any further increase in its capacity for many years to come.  As a result of Covid-19, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed.”

In the 12 months to 31 March, Stansted handled just 3 million passengers compared to 28 million in 2019, before air travel was decimated by the pandemic.

In addition to the expected long-term impact of Covid-19 on air travel, there is growing recognition that the UK will not be able to meet its statutory target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 unless aviation emissions are brought under much tighter control. This almost certainly means that aviation growth, at Stansted and elsewhere, will need to be constrained.

Peter Sanders continued: “In the current circumstances it’s questionable whether ‘Stop Stansted Expansion’ continues to be an appropriate name for our campaign.  It’s also important to note that, over the years, SSE has done far more than just dealing with the threat of expansion, for example, campaigning on night flights, on changes to flight paths, on aviation policy and taxation, on climate change, on the phasing out of noisier aircraft, on homeowner mitigation and compensation, and far more besides.”

All of that work will continue to be necessary and the view of the SSE committee is that this is the right time to re-focus the campaign on the task ahead.  Rather than having to oppose expansion proposals, the need will be to ensure that the airport’s authorised operations cause as little harm as possible and, wherever possible, are managed so as to reduce harm.

A further reason for the new organisation is to help bring about a changing of the guard within SSE.  Most of the current members of the SSE committee have been in place since the campaign group was established in 2002.  If there were to be another threat of airport expansion in, say, ten years’ time, the current team would not be the best people to handle that challenge. The current hiatus, caused by Covid-19, provides an opportunity to start passing the baton to the next generation, allowing new blood to learn and gain experience of dealing with the key issues.

Peter Sanders concluded: “SSE has notched up some considerable successes since it was established in 2002 but now is exactly the right time to refocus and rejuvenate the campaign for the longer term.  I have no doubt that Stansted Airport Watch – SAW – will be every bit as effective as SSE and, as its name implies, will be ever-vigilant in seeking to minimise the negative impacts of the airport upon the local community and the environment.”

Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year’s AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. [Note 3.]


  1. SSE was formed in 2002 as a working group of the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association (NWEEHPA) and that continues to be the position today. It is intended to change the name of NWEEHPA to Stansted Airport Watch.  SSE would not actually be disbanded but would instead become dormant unless and until needed again.
  2. The proposed changes are subject to approval at the NWEEHPA AGM on 26 May at the Silver Jubilee Hall, Takeley, starting at 8pm. All SSE members are entitled to attend and vote.
  3. SSE’s Deputy Chairman, Brian Ross, has indicated his willingness to stand as Chairman of Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) for the coming year. If he is elected, this would help to provide continuity during the transition.


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