Stansted Airport secures OK for 45 million passengers a year on planning committee chairman's casting vote
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed dismay and disappointment after Stansted Airport was given the go-ahead to grow to 43 million passengers a year - up from its current cap of 35m a year and a 59% increase on its current figure of 27m.
Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) said that the Conservative-led Uttlesford District Council had approved an “environmentally unsound” airport expansion “against the wishes of residents and over 40 parish councils”.
Both SSE and R4U will be writing to the Government asking it to ‘call in’ Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group’s (MAG) application.
UDC’s planning committee was split 5-5, with five Conservatives in favour of the application. They included Howard Ryles and Lesley Wells, who between them represent Takeley, Hatfield Broad Oak and the Hallingburys.
The five opposed were three R4U members representing Saffron Walden and Newport, Stort Valley Liberal Democrat Janice Loughlin and Hatfield Heath Tory and former Independent Mark Lemon.
How the committee voted
Paul Fairhurst – R4U, Saffron Walden Shire
Richard Freeman – R4U, Saffron Walden Castle
Anthony Gerard – R4U, Newport
Mark Lemon – Con (formerly Ind), Hatfield Heath
Janice Loughlin – Lib Dem, Stort Valley
Robert Chambers – Con, Littlebury, Chesterford & Wenden Lofts
Eric Hicks – Con, Great Dunmow South & Barnston
Alan Mills (chairman) – Con, Felsted & Stebbing
Howard Ryles – Con, Takeley
Lesley Wells – Con, Broad Oak & Hallingburys
The application was approved on the casting vote of committee chairman Cllr Alan Mills, who represents Felsted and Stebbing.
If UDC’s approval is allowed to stand, it will mean that Stansted could increase its flights by 44% compared to last year’s levels to its permitted 274,000 a year.
The decision followed an all-day meeting in the council chamber at UDC headquarters in Saffron Walden which was packed with parish council representatives, members of the public and the media. Both BBC and ITV regional news teams were filming.
At the start of proceedings on Wednesday (Nov 14), UDC’s lead planning officer, Nigel Brown, told the meeting that James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, had ordered the council not to issue a decision notice until he had had an opportunity to consider whether the application should be ‘called in’, confirming written assurances from the minister’s office to SSE.
SSE will now submit further representations to the Secretary, asking him again to call in the application.
The protest group will also be discussing possible next steps with its legal advisers. SSE is already pursuing a High Court challenge in relation to the application; if this succeeds, UDC’s approval would be overturned.
SSE deputy chairman Brian Ross said: “Of course we are disappointed to lose the argument in such a shameful fashion, with the outcome ultimately resting on the chairman’s casting vote.
“It was especially galling when most of the councillors who voted in favour of approval made very little attempt to engage in the proceedings and showed little evidence of having done their homework.
“This was not Uttlesford District Council’s finest hour. Fortunately this is not the end of the road, so we would advise Stansted Airport not to start popping the champagne corks just yet.”
R4U said that the application had been approved without the estimated £1.2bn of required railway and motorway upgrades, and mitigation of environmental and community impacts.
R4U chair Cllr John Lodge said: “Uttlesford District Council has just approved Stansted Airport to grow to the current size of Gatwick.
“The airport is a large employer and economically important to the region, but it is a business that is run for profit. That means that on behalf of residents, R4U demands that it must pay its way as well as being environmental sound.
“The proposal that was whipped through by the Conservative council cabinet is poor and does not serve the future of the district well. That is why R4U, more than 40 parish councils and half the district planning committee don’t support it.
“We will now write again to the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ this application for national determination.”
Herts County Council broadly welcomed the opportunities offered by an expanded Stansted but remains concerned about how passengers will get to and from the airport.
Cllr Derrick Ashley, its cabinet member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the cconomy, said: “There’s an obvious economic opportunity here for the county and we want to grasp that. As the airport grows we need to build a strong economic relationship that will benefit Hertfordshire’s residents and businesses while protecting our environment and communities.
“We know that potential impact of expanding an already busy airport is a major concern for our residents. We’re pleased that Uttlesford District Council has accepted the need for suitable restrictions and conditions to keep those impacts to a minimum.
“We do still have concerns about how passengers will get to the airport to catch their flights, however we are pleased that Stansted has committed to improving access to the airport, particularly by options other than the car.
“In particular we will be pursuing potential for a 24-hour bus service running to the airport to and from the west across Hertfordshire so passengers catching early or late flights can leave their cars at home.
“We’re improving the roads to Stansted – for example, by building a bypass around Little Hadham on the A120 – but we can’t just keep building new roads, we need to improve public transport as well.”
Herts County Council has been working with East Herts Council, Essex County Council, Uttlesford District Council and Stansted Airport to understand the impact expanding the airport will have on the area. Technical work and specialist experts have demonstrated that the impact on noise, air quality and traffic are all manageable as long as suitable conditions are in place.