10th May 2021

Time to call a halt to airport expansion

United Message from Airport Campaign Groups across the UK

In a major breakthrough for airport campaign groups across the UK, the Government has finally agreed that all aviation emissions are to be subject to legal limits under the Climate Change Act.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman Peter Sanders commented:  “This is a major cause for celebration and something we have long argued for.  The Government finally seems to have recognised that if we are serious about tackling climate change, the environmental damage caused by the aviation sector can no longer be ignored.”

In the wake of the Government’s announcement, campaign groups at the eight major UK airports currently threatened by expansion, have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick calling for an immediate moratorium on airport expansion on climate change grounds.

SSE has also sent a further submission to the Planning Inspectors who presided over the recent Stansted Public Inquiry, highlighting this important shift in Government policy and arguing that it would be wholly inconsistent with this policy to approve further expansion of Stansted.

At this stage there is still no indication as to when the Inspectors will announce their decision on the Stansted Public Inquiry, or what that decision will be.

The Government decision to bring aviation emissions fully into a legal framework is in line with one of the key recommendations made by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) last December.  Another key CCC recommendation was that there should be no further expansion of UK airport capacity unless and until the sector could demonstrate that it had reduced its carbon emissions sufficiently to accommodate additional demand.

The CCC concluded that, even with the aviation industry’s projections of new aviation biofuels and improved aircraft efficiency, the demand for flying would still need to be limited if the UK is to meet its climate change commitments.

Peter Sanders concluded:  “For far too long the aviation industry has had a free pass on its carbon emissions which has allowed it unlimited expansion regardless of its impact on climate change. Tax free fuel and a blanket exemption from paying VAT are other examples of the favoured treatment granted to the aviation industry.  Finally, aviation will be expected to play its part like everyone else, at least in terms of emissions. The days of unlimited aviation expansion may now be coming to an end.”


  1. The letter (dated 10 May) from airport campaign groups – including SSE, HACAN (Heathrow) and GACC (Gatwick) – to the Transport Secretary and the Communities Secretary is available on the SSE website at https://stanstedairportwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/AEF-Airport-expansion-moratorium-letter-May-2021.pdf.
  2. SSE’s Supplementary Submission (dated 7 May) to the Planning Inspectors is available at https://stanstedairportwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/SSE-Supplementary-Submission-on-CO2-Emissions-Climate-Change-7.5.2021.pdf. Uttlesford District Council and Manchester Airports Group also made further submissions on 7 May – see https://programmeofficers.co.uk/ssairport/.
  3. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is expected to become Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) subject to approval at its Annual General Meeting on 26 May. (Further details on SSE website.)


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