Uttlesford District Council leader calls for Government to intervene on Stansted Airport Expansion
The leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has condemned the planning inspectorate’s decision to allow expansion at Stansted Airport as “an insult to local democracy”.
Cllr John Lodge, in charge of the authority’s Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) administration, has written to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps and his Housing, Communities and Local Government counterpart Robert Jenrick and urged them to intervene.
He called on the Government to commit to "aviation demand management" to prevent the implementation of the planning permission at the airport over the next 10 to 15 years.
The panel of three independent inspectors who heard Manchester Airports Group’s appeal from January to March this year ruled that the council had behaved so unreasonably that full costs – upwards of £1m – should be awarded to Stansted.
They said: “The council’s own appeal evidence was that the planning balance was favourable, such that planning permission should be granted.”
Before their decision to approve growth from 35m to 43m passengers a year was delivered, the inspectors allowed the council, Stop Stansted Expansion (now Stansted Airport Watch) and MAG to make additional representations about climate change in the light of a Government announcement on cutting carbon emissions.
Uttlesford’s submission said: “The new reality is that there is no way of getting aviation to play its role in achieving the 2035 target apart from aviation demand management. Not to acknowledge this is to be in denial.”
Cllr Lodge told the Secretaries of State: “What is most distressing is that the [inspectors’] decision has been taken in full knowledge that the Government have accepted the high-level recommendations of the Climate Change Committee on the 6th Carbon Budget (6CB), meaning a 78% cut in carbon emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2035, including International Aviation and Shipping (IAS), and that a draft Statutory Instrument has been laid in the Commons and Lords which is expected to come into force by the end of June.
“The Government has promised to publish its Transport Decarbonisation Plan within the next few weeks and to consult on net-zero aviation. If planning controls can only manage the consequences against a policy framework that must effectively be already under review and not respond to the policy changes that will shortly become imperative, will you commit to aviation demand management to prevent the implementation of the planning permission for expansion of the airport over the next 10 to 15 years?”
Cllr Lodge said: “Uttlesford council’s planning committee very thoroughly weighed up the evidence before them but were also mindful of the issues coming down the line; they wanted to exercise their place-making function and community leadership role fully, responsibly and with due consideration to the future of all: the residents, businesses, nature and climate. We are distraught that PINS (Planning Inspectorate) did not or were not able to do likewise; moreover, we are outraged that they would not see how challenging this decision had been for elected members nor how carefully they had approached it and awarded full costs against the council.”
That view has been challenged by the council’s opposition. The same day Cllr Lodge wrote to the Government, Uttlesford’s Liberal Democrat leader called for an independent investigation into the district’s “disastrous handling” of the Stansted Airport inquiry.
Cllr Melvin Caton, said, “Local residents face a huge financial cost as a result of R4U’s incompetent handling of the appeal. The decision to award costs against UDC means R4U has squandered over £1 million of vital funds which otherwise might have gone to other key public services.
“Local residents deserve to understand how a 10-0 vote of the planning committee was ultimately translated by the R4U administration into the weak defence put up at the appeal. For that reason, we are calling for an independent public inquiry instead of the currently-proposed internal process chaired by one of R4U’s own councillors.”
“For an administration which has promised transparency and competency, they are attempting a cover-up instead. Uttlesford’s residents deserve better.”
The council’s scrutiny committee will decide exactly how the matter should be investigated.