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Stansted Airport welcomes 'useful' Government change on aviation emissions

Stansted Airport bosses have welcomed the Government’s decision formally to incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions into its Sixth Carbon Budget.

The move is part of a strategy to combat climate change by achieving a 78% cut by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

As a result of the announcement, the panel of three planning inquiry inspectors who heard Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group’s appeal against Uttlesford District Council’s refusal of planning permission to increase Stansted’s passenger cap from 35 million a year to 43m has allowed further comments from the parties before it makes its recommendation.

Stansted Airport. (46790140)
Stansted Airport. (46790140)

An airport spokesman said: “The Government’s recent decision on the Sixth Carbon Budget usefully formalises the way emissions from international aviation are accounted for and is entirely consistent with our planning application and the case we set out during the public inquiry.

“The Sixth Carbon Budget also supports the commitment we made in 2020, working with a wide range of partners across the aviation industry and supported by the Secretary of State for Transport, to reach net zero for UK aviation by 2050.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to ensure that aviation plays a full part in meeting the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 while we continue to create the jobs, travel opportunities and business connections that are so highly valued and vital in supporting the UK’s recovery from the devastating economic impacts of the Covid pandemic.”

Stansted Airport. (46790140)
Stansted Airport. (46790140)

Emissions from domestic aviation have always been formally included in the budget. At the time of the Fifth Carbon Budget, the Climate Change Committee considered that emissions from international aviation should not be “formally included” but that they should “continue to be allowed for in the size of the budget for other sectors”.

The Indie understands that Stop Stansted Expansion was instrumental in the planning appeal panel’s decision to allow comments in light of the Government’s new approach.

The issue has prompted a political row at UDC after ruling party Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) subsequently issued a press release backing the council’s legal team for also writing to the inspectors and requesting a further hearing to consider new evidence.

R4U’s Cllr John Evans, the portfolio holder for planning, said: “UDC has been vigorously defending its planning refusal of Stansted Airport expansion at the ongoing appeal.

Cllr John Evans (46789914)
Cllr John Evans (46789914)

“More passengers mean more planes, which means more pollution. In 1990, passenger numbers at Stansted were 1.2m a year. The airport wants to expand to more than 42m a year. Even though some planes are less polluting than in the past, a 35-fold increase over the 1990 level is incompatible with the new law.”

R4U’s Cllr Louise Pepper, the portfolio holder for the environment, added: “Importantly the new law closes a massive loophole, which allowed pollution from the actual aeroplanes to be excluded.

“We believe that UDC’s legal defence, which was already based on four solid refusal reasons including emissions, has now been significantly strengthened.”

Cllr Louise Pepper (46789917)
Cllr Louise Pepper (46789917)

That view was derided by the council’s opposition parties, who have united to condemn R4U for hypocrisy, labelling it dishonest and incompetent.

In a joint statement, the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Green Party councillors attacked the administration, saying R4U’s assertion that the Uttlesford legal team “vigorously defended the planning refusal of Stansted Airport expansion” at the appeal was false.

They demanded the resignation of Cllr Evans and the rest of the cabinet for five key failures:

  1. Trampling on democracy by going against the planning committee’s decision to refuse;
  2. Preventing planning committee members from putting their case for refusal at the appeal;
  3. Failing to answer 16 questions put to the cabinet in January about the council’s cosy behaviour towards the airport over the appeal
  4. Cancelling or postponing several council meetings to avoid scrutiny by councillors and the public;
  5. Being blatantly dishonest and hypocritical this week by belatedly backing action against climate change and aviation.

They said: “R4U are falsely seeking to pretend they were the instigators of controls over aviation emissions. In reality, they turned a blind eye.”

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