27th May 2003

Terry Waite Pledges Support for SSE Campaign

Terry Waite CBE has pledged his support for Stop Stansted Expansion as the campaign gears up for the final phase of the government’s consultation which ends in late June.

The former special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury who was held hostage for almost five years in Beirut before being released in 1991 offered to help champion the anti-expansion cause following a recent visit to Broxted Church. While there he learnt of the threat from the Department for Transport’s proposals to turn Stansted – the ‘airport in the countryside’ – into the world’s largest airport through the addition of up to three extra runways. If allowed to go ahead, such expansion would make Stansted twice the size of Heathrow Airport.

Terry Waite was greatly moved by the concerns of local people who explained to him that three villages including much of Broxted (though not the church) would be wiped out by an enlarged airport. In addition, they explained that dozens of other communities across the region were threatened by the overwhelming road, rail and housing programme which would be needed to support an airport handling eight times the present number of passengers. Noise would also worsen across a wide area with up to 2000 planes day, including many Jumbos and double decker Airbuses, crowding the skies with barely a moment’s respite.

His knowledge of the Stansted area stems from the period when, after his release from captivity, Terry Waite stayed in Broxted where the family of fellow hostage John McCarthy lived. His own home is now near Bury St Edmunds. He is also eminently familiar with campaigning on the airport expansion issue following his active involvement in the campaign to prevent a second runway being added at Manchester Airport in 1997. Then, protestors even built tree houses and tunnels to keep the bulldozers at bay.

Terry Waite has already agreed to play an active role in Stop Stansted Expansion’s ‘Vanishing Villages‘ event on 29 June which more than a thousand people are expected to attend to mark the end of the consultation the following day. Built around the Broxted Open Gardens initiative, it will draw in dozens more communities, representing villages and local towns whose way of life would be severely rocked by the addition of further runways. More details on the event are being released separately.

Terry Waite describes his decision to stand firm with those threatened by expansion at Stansted as a symbol of his support for all communities threatened by airport expansion plans.

He said: “It is not easy for me to oppose this extension as I am a regular passenger on airlines and have been for forty years or more. However, I feel that I must make my views known as I am deeply troubled by the threatened devastation of the countryside and the environmental impact such a development will have. To destroy 326 homes, 64 of which are grade two listed buildings; to demolish over 1000 acres of the Countryside Protection Zone and to build one of the biggest airports in the world at Stansted is, to my mind, the very opposite to good development. The countryside is a precious and dwindling asset. Once it is used up it has gone forever.”

“Opponents of this development are up against massive odds,” he continued. “It is vital that those who value our heritage and advocate sensible development make their voices known now. Soon, it could be too late.”

Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Norman Mead reacted positively to the famous humanitarian’s decision to become involved, saying: “Terry Waite’s decision to stand firm with the people of Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridge and Suffolk is greatly welcomed by all those concerned with this campaign. His commitment to helping us to oppose the bully-boy tactics of those who only motive is profit – even at the expense of our health, well-being and heritage – and will do much to encourage others to stand up to these ill-founded expansion plans.”

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