8th April 2019
Uttlesford poised for final betrayal before May elections
Stop Stansted Expansion (‘SSE’) has slammed Uttlesford District Council (‘UDC’) for preparing to rush through final approval of expansion at Stansted Airport to 43 million passengers per annum (‘mppa’) whilst at the same time accepting a totally inadequate package of mitigation measures.
SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “For almost two years, UDC leadership has insisted that determining this airport planning application at local level would ensure the maximum benefits for the local community. That promise is about to be totally betrayed.”
Peter Sanders added: “It beggars belief that our local council would be willing to short change its own residents – and knowingly so. Instead of holding out until a fairer agreement for its residents could be negotiated with Stansted Airport, UDC appears intent on rushing through this shabby and defective deal before next month’s local elections.”
When UDC controversially approved the Stansted Airport planning application last November [Note 1], the issue was already subject to a legal challenge by Stop Stansted Expansion (‘SSE’) – which is still ongoing – and there were two other conditions to be met:
- The Communities Secretary had to decide not to ‘call in’ the planning application for consideration at national level; and
- Stansted Airport Ltd (‘STAL’) had to enter into a satisfactory ‘Section 106’ agreement setting out the local mitigation package it would provide, such as sound insulation for nearby properties, support for community projects, funding for local road improvements etc.
The first of the above two obstacles was cleared on 20 March when the Communities Secretary announced that he would not be calling in the application [Note 2].
UDC is now poised to rubber stamp STAL’s proposed mitigation package despite the fact that it is vastly inferior to almost any comparable mitigation provided by other major UK airports. UDC leadership is aware that STAL is offering far less to the local community compared to what is provided by almost every other UK airport, and yet, inexplicably, seems intent on accepting STAL’s proposals and is rushing to have the Section 106 Agreement signed and sealed before the local elections on 2 May.
Just taking two examples:
- STAL is offering £150,000 per annum for local good causes. At 43 mppa this equates to less than 0.4 pence per passenger. By comparison, Heathrow and Gatwick both provide 1.1 pence per passenger, which is the average for all UK major airports. Manchester Airport and Stansted Airport are at the bottom of the league table, providing the least support for local good causes amongst all the major UK airports. For Stansted to match the UK average of 1.1 pence per passenger it would require a contribution of three times the £150,000 currently proposed, and which Uttlesford seems content to accept. [Note 3].
- STAL’s proposed sound insulation scheme offers up to £10,000 for homes within the 63dB noise contour whilst Heathrow is offering sound insulation for all homes within the 60dB noise contour, with no financial cap. A difference of 3dB may not appear large but around Stansted Airport there are just 115 homes in the 63dB noise contour but three times as many – 350 – in the 60dB contour. Uttlesford is aware, from a Department for Transport (DfT) comparison, that the proposed Stansted scheme is vastly inferior to the Heathrow scheme. Furthermore, the Government published proposals last December to extend the noise insulation threshold from the current 63dB contour to the 60dB contour [Note 4]. Nevertheless UDC seems determined to agree to STAL’s proposal and accept second class treatment for Uttlesford residents.
Peter Sanders concluded: “Thank goodness SSE had the foresight last year to initiate legal proceedings to challenge UDC’s handling of this planning application. We repeat our plea to UDC to delay its finalisation of this controversial Stansted Airport planning application until the legal proceedings have run their course.”
If UDC ignores this advice and issues its final approval of the airport planning application regardless of the widespread concerns, SSE would have no choice but to join UDC into the current legal proceedings. SSE has offered to meet UDC Chief Executive in order to try to avoid this outcome, or at least minimise the scope of legal proceedings, which would inevitably give rise to significant costs for local council taxpayers as well as for those who voluntarily contribute to SSE’s fighting fund (very often the same people).
Regrettably the Council appears to be in such a rush to finalise the approval that no-one from UDC is prepared to find time even to discuss the issue with SSE.
1. The Stansted Airport Planning Application for 43mppa was approved by the Chairman’s (additional) casting vote after UDC Planning Committee was evenly split (five for and five against), as follows:
Councillors who voted against the expansion to 43mppa
Paul Fairhurst – Residents for Uttlesford, Saffron Walden Shire
Richard Freeman – Residents for Uttlesford, Saffron Walden Castle
Anthony Gerard – Residents for Uttlesford, Newport
Mark Lemon – Conservative (formerly Independent), Hatfield Heath
Janice Loughlin – Liberal Democrat, Stort Valley
Councillors who voted in favour of the expansion to 43mppa
Robert Chambers – Conservative, Littlebury, Chesterford and Wendon Lofts
Eric Hicks – Conservative, Great Dunmow South and Barnston
Alan Mills (Chairman) – Conservative, Felsted and Stebbing
Howard Ryles – Conservative, Takeley
Lesley Wells – Conservative, Broad Oak and the Hallingburys
2. SSE is currently pursuing legal challenges against both the Transport Secretary and the Communities Secretary over their refusal to ‘call in’ the airport planning application for national consideration.
3. The £150,000 would be locked in for ten years subject only to an annual increase to offset inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. In practice the amount would be slightly more than £150,000 because at all major UK airports it is standard procedure for any noise fines levied on airlines (£8,400 at Stansted in 2017) to be added to the Community Fund.
4. STAL 43mppa Planning Application, Environmental Statement Volume 2, Appendix 7.3, para 25.1.2 and “Aviation 2050: The future of UK aviation”, Department for Transport, Dec 2018, para 3.122.
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