Stansted Airport boss writes to residents ahead of crunch planning meeting on growth
Stansted Airport’s boss has written an open letter to residents, setting out the airport’s future plans and how they will benefit the region.
Chief executive Ken O’Toole also addressed concerns about the local and environmental impacts of the proposals, saying “now more than ever we know it is critical to get this right”.
He also explained that extensive independent assessment of the application showed it “would create no significant harm, whether that be with regards air quality, carbon, noise or transport.”
The letter comes ahead of a meeting of Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee tomorrow (Friday, January 24), at which members will once again consider the airport’s application to serve 43m passengers a year, up from the current 35m limit, which was approved in November 2018. Current annual traffic is around 28m.
That decision was taken by the former Conservative administration, but confirmation of permission has been in limbo since the Residents for Uttlesford party took control at last May’s local government elections and demanded a review of mitigation measures and the latest environmental legislation.
As with previous meetings to consider this application, the advice from the council’s own officers and independent legal experts is clear that there is no reason to continue withholding final approval.
Open letter from Ken O’Toole:
As your local airport, Stansted’s success has always been rooted in the optimism and success of the region we serve and we are proud of the efforts we make to ensure our growth is in the best interests of the community.
We have always supported a healthy and accurate debate about our future and when we asked the local community what you wanted from our future growth you were very clear – that you appreciate that a healthy Stansted is good for the region but the airport’s impact on local communities and the environment need to be managed properly.
As a result, we submitted a planning application to Uttlesford District Council that sought approval to increase the number of passengers the airport can welcome through its doors each year. This increase will see us make best use of our existing single runway but at the same time included a legal commitment to not add any more flights than Government gave us permission for back in 2008. We are able to do this because of three reasons: 1) Aircraft technology is developing all the time, meaning short-haul aircraft which make up most services at Stansted are getting slightly bigger, as well as quieter and more fuel-efficient 2) We are also anticipating these aircraft will be fuller 3) Stansted will attract additional long-haul carriers which operate larger aircraft.
We have asked for this increase because Stansted is seeing increasing demand from passengers and airlines wanting to take advantage of our upgraded facilities and spare runway capacity and we also hear regularly from residents that they are fed up of having to spend valuable time and money on travelling to Heathrow or Gatwick to catch flights.
An approval will also provide our local community with clear commitments on how we will manage our growth over the next ten years. Crucially, it will enable us and our airlines to confidently invest in delivering new jobs, better facilities for our customers, and infrastructure to support the increase in passengers. These are major investments of hundreds of millions of pounds and take a long time to plan and deliver. Growth will hopefully mean more of what we have been able to announce recently – exciting new airlines flying to places local people and businesses want to reach all over the world.
For many years, we have been focused on protecting and enhancing the natural environment for the next generation, so they have a healthy and beautiful country in which to build their lives. We have long been leaders in this field and now more than ever we know it is critical to get this right and we understand the concerns many have about the future of our planet.
Our proposal to grow has been subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment which has been carefully scrutinised by Uttlesford council officials and its independent consultants. The verdict from their assessment of this evidence is unanimous - that the data underpinning the assessments is valid, the methodology used complies with all the latest policy and legal requirements set by Government, and importantly that our application to grow would create no significant harm, whether that be with regards air quality, carbon, noise or transport.
Finally, we have worked with Uttlesford council to identify a £35m package of measures that would be triggered on the back of approval being granted. These measures must meet strict Government guidelines and legal tests which ensure that planning permission cannot be either ‘bought or sold’. This package would deliver significant improvements to the district’s transport infrastructure, employment prospects, educational provision, community funding, and environmental schemes to avoid pollution, including sound insulation to residents’ properties.
The future is certainly looking bright for Stansted and I look forward to keeping you updated on our exciting plans.
Chief Executive, London Stansted Airport
Overview of proposals
In February 2018, London Stansted Airport submitted a planning application to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to enable growth to make best use of the airport’s single runway.
These proposals include:
An increase in the number of passengers the airport is allowed to serve from 35 to 43 million passengers a year;
NO increase in the limit on aircraft movements which was approved in 2008, remaining at 274,000 per year;
NO increase in the permitted allowance for aircraft noise AND over time a reduction in the permitted noise limit.That means a noise footprint that is 15% smaller in 2028 than the one approved in 2008;
LESS cargo aircraft that are allowed from 20,500 to no more than 16,000 a year.
NO lobbying for any increase in night flights.
Two new taxiways and nine more aircraft stands to create a more efficient airfield operation;
All planned infrastructure improvements contained with the airport’s existing boundary; and
Binding commitments alongside a package of other benefits for local communities, including lobbying Government for lower noise penalty limits.
Process to date
November 2018 – UDC planning committee approves proposals following two days of public speaking and an all-day committee meeting.
March 2019 – The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed the application would not be ‘called in’ for determination by central government, and that UDC was the right body to determine the application.
May 2019 – Following local elections, the new UDC administration commissions two further sets of independent legal advice on the proposals.
June 2019 – With R4U now in control, UDCholds a second extraordinary meeting.
Advice from UDC officers and independent legal experts confirms there are no grounds for refusing to issue the final approval.
The officers’ report also advises UDC to ringfence its £2m Strategic Initiative Fund in the event it needs to defend itself against an appeal and warns of further financial consequences of facing a legal challenge.
UDC votes to return the issue to its planning committee to consider the detail of the proposed S106 Agreement and whether there had been any significant change in circumstances since the November 2018 vote to approve.
January 2020 – Following the planning committee’s detailed review, Stansted puts forward a revised £35m S106 mitigation package.
There are three potential outcomes from tomorrow’s meeting:
Approval – the planning committee agrees the S106 is fit for purpose and that there has been no material change in circumstances, meaning final approval can be issued.
Refusal – the planning committee votes that one or both of these conditions has not been met and refuses the application.
Stansted Airport’s management team has said it is too soon to say if there would be an appeal in the case of a refusal or further delay, as it would need to consider the details of any outcome of tomorrow’s meeting.