SSE welcomes R4U election victory as 'opportunity for fresh approach'
Stop Stansted Expansion has welcomed the defeat of the "deeply unpopular" Conservative administration at Uttlesford District Council in last week's local elections as an "opportunity for a fresh approach" in its fight to cap passenger growth at the airport.
The campaign group said that "an electoral tsunami" swept through the district last Thursday as the community "left no doubt as to its dissatisfaction" with the Conservative administration.
The Tories retained just four out of their 24 seats – proportionately, the largest loss by a ruling party in any district council in the country – as Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) swept to power.
The composition of the 39-seat UDC is now R4U 26 (up 16), Liberal Democrats 7 (+ 3), Conservatives 4 (- 20) and Independents 2 (+ 2). There was one vacant seat going into the poll.
Six months ago, UDC's planning committee granted Stansted Airport, which is owned by Manchester Airports Group, planning permission to allow it to expand beyond its current cap of 35 million passengers a year to 43 million.
SSE said: "The five members of the council's planning committee who voted in favour of the Stansted Airport planning application last November are no longer councillors, whereas the five who voted against were all re-elected.
"The leader of Uttlesford District Council [Howard Rolfe, who lost his Ashdon seat] sought to blame Brexit, but it was far more than that.
"This was a deeply unpopular administration which attached greater priority to the commercial interests of Manchester Airports Group than to the wellbeing of local residents. There is no doubt that the controversial Local Plan was another reason for the catastrophic losses suffered by the Conservative group.
"Many of the members of the public who spoke out on behalf of their communities at recent council meetings to voice their concerns about airport expansion and other matters have now been elected as full members of the council, replacing those who refused to listen.
"Stop Stansted Expansion congratulates all of them and looks forward to re-establishing a constructive dialogue with the council."
SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: "I very much regret the fact that our relationship with UDC has been strained in recent times as a result of the council's mishandling of the current Stansted Airport planning application.
"We now have a change of administration and I am optimistic that this will allow us, once again, to have a cordial and business-like relationship with the council. This is an opportunity for a fresh approach."
The week before the local elections, at an extraordinary meeting of the council, protesters succeeded in delaying final approval for Stansted Airport expansion until after last Thursday's vote to review the Section 106 infrastructure and investment agreements that form part of the planning permission.
More by this authorPaul Winspear