19th July 2011

Time for BAA to accept defeat at Stansted

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has condemned BAA’s suggestion that it will apply for judicial review of today’s final verdict from the Competition Commission (CC) ordering BAA to sell Stansted Airport by the end of next year.

SSE Economics Adviser Brian Ross commented: “The uncertainty has gone on far too long and BAA should now respect the ruling of the Competition Commission and the courts and sell Stansted as quickly as possible.”

He cautioned against a repetition of the appeals process which enabled the original CC ruling to be deferred for over two years: “BAA’s statement today in response to the Competition Commission ruling suggests it is considering a fresh challenge in the hope of buying yet more time so that Stansted is sold under better market conditions. Such procrastination would only worsen relations between the airport and the community which it has already done so much to destroy.”

“Our hope is that with a new owner in place there would be an opportunity for genuine and meaningful dialogue based on maximising the local benefits of the airport and minimising its adverse impacts on the community,” he continued.

The long running saga began five years ago in June 2006 with the launch of a study into BAA’s dominance of the UK airports market by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The OFT concluded in March 2007 that competition was being distorted by BAA’s ownership of the three largest London airports and the major Scottish airports.

As a consequence the OFT referred the matter to the CC for more extensive investigation and two years later (March 2009) the CC ruled that BAA must sell Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airport. BAA accepted the ruling in respect of Gatwick but launched a legal challenge against the rulings on Stansted and Edinburgh/Glasgow. The legal proceedings took almost two years to run their course, with the Supreme Court finally ruling in February 2011 that BAA could not take its legal challenge any further.

Undeterred, BAA then argued that circumstances had changed so much in the two years since the CC’s original ruling that the whole matter had to be looked at afresh. The CC has spent the past few months considering this argument and the CC’s verdict – announced today – is that its original conclusions still hold good. As a consequence the CC has confirmed that BAA must sell Stansted by the end of next year.

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