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Former MP Sir Alan Haselhurst criticises Uttlesford District Council over Stansted Airport planning application

Former Uttlesford MP Sir Alan Haselhurst has hit out at Uttlesford District Council over its planning wrangle with Stansted Airport.

The authority's Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) administration has left an application by Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group to raise the cap on passenger numbers from 35 million a year to 43 million in limbo.

The application was approved by the council's previous, Conservative administration in November 2018. However, after seizing control from the Tories in May's local elections, R4U bounced the proposals back to UDC's planning committee.

Sir Alan Haselhurst with Stansted Airport chief executive Ken O'Toole (21994831)
Sir Alan Haselhurst with Stansted Airport chief executive Ken O'Toole (21994831)

Conservative grandee Sir Alan, who served the Saffron Walden constituency for four decades from 1977 to 2017, took to social media to voice his disapproval of the impasse. In May 2018 he was appointed a life peer and now sits in the House of Lords as Baron Haselhurst of Saffron Walden.

On Monday (Nov 18) the 82-year-old former deputy speaker of the House of Commons said on Twitter: "Lack of unity and resolution at Uttlesford District Council is worrying. It's in danger of being at war with the biggest employer in the constituency (Stansted Airport) which could result in considerable cost to taxpayers. Important decisions need to be made and progress is needed."

In a video accompanying his tweet, he also rapped the R4U administration for its inconsistent approach to its district plan, which sets out future housing and employment strategy.

UDC has confirmed it will not deal with the application until after the General Election and the result of a judicial review heard in the High Court last Tuesday and Wednesday. A spokesman said: "We are looking at dates and anticipate that it will go back to committee in January."

Stop Stansted Expansion's court action argues that the planning application should be determined by the Government, not the council, because the airport's ultimate aim is permission for 50m passengers a year.

SSE chairman Peter Sanders said after the hearing: "We have undoubtedly given the judge a great deal to think about and we must now wait and see whether that will be enough.

"In challenging the combined forces of the Secretary of State, Manchester Airports Group and Uttlesford District Council, it is obviously essential to present the strongest possible case supported by the clearest possible evidence. We have certainly given it our best shot. We've learned, however, never to make predictions in this type of case."

Despite its fears about a surreptitious, two-stage expansion, last month SSE highlighted a decline in growth at Stansted.

After 63 consecutive months of year-on-year growth, the airport reported a reduction in passenger numbers over summer, down 200,000 in July to September, equivalent to a year-on-year decline of 2.3%.

A spokesman for the airport said: "Stansted's planning application is to serve up to 43m passengers a year without increasing the number of flights already permitted and within a smaller noise footprint than currently agreed. We have been clear and consistent on this in making our case for growth and the certainty approval will provide for the local community and the investment plans of the airport and businesses across the region.

"As confirmed in court, there are absolutely no other plans in existence for any growth beyond this passenger limit, and to suggest otherwise is misleading and incorrect.

"While we await the judgment, it would not be appropriate to comment further upon claims made before the court."

The airport currently has around 28m passengers a year.

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