Stop Stansted Expansion threatens legal action over airport growth
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) wants to take legal action to force the Government to rule on airport expansion - not Uttlesford District Council (UDC).
The campaigners have described Stansted Airport owner Manchester Airports Group’s (MAG) application to the local authority today (Thursday) as an attempt to manipulate the planning process so as to avoid Government scrutiny and instead do a “sweetheart” deal.
Also, SSE has branded the application as misleading in claiming that further expansion of the airport would give rise to no significant adverse environmental impacts.
The planning application seeks permission for an annual throughput of 43 million passengers and 274,000 flights, which compares to 25.9m passengers and 189,900 flights last year.
SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: “It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to work out that a 44% increase in the number of flights and a 66% increase in the number of passengers means a lot more noise, a lot more pollution and a lot more traffic on our already congested local roads. By suggesting otherwise, Stansted Airport and its owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), are treating the local community as if we were all complete fools.”
Stansted is currently subject to a cap of 35m passengers per annum (mppa). MAG initially indicated, in June 2017, that it would seek permission for the cap to be raised to “approximately 44.5mppa”, which it predicted would be achieved in 2029.
SSE immediately pointed out that a cap of “approximately 44.5mppa” could easily mean 45mppa – 10mppa more than the present cap – and would therefore automatically be for the Secretary of State to determine the application rather than UDC.
MAG announced last October that it would trim its application from 44.5mppa to 43mppa, however SSE has pointed out that it also trimmed its timescale from 2029 to 2028 and is questioning what happens in 2030.
SSE says it is “profoundly concerned at the lengths MAG is prepared to go to avoid national scrutiny of its planning application by the Secretary of State and instead have it decided by UDC”.
The organisation has used the Freedom of Information Act to confirm UDC planning officers held 36 informal meetings with Stansted Airport and MAG management in 2016 and 2017, and no formal minutes are available. By contrast, SSE’s requests for a meeting with UDC planning officers have been repeatedly refused.
Campaigners are questioning if there is a deal brokered for MAG to make financial contributions to UDC to help fund local road schemes and other projects, which would help the council with the delivery of the major housing developments in its Draft Local Plan, in return for planning approval.
Mr Sanders said: “We need to have confidence that this planning application will be considered purely on its own merits and subject to fair and thorough scrutiny. That is why it should be determined nationally by the Secretary of State, not locally by Uttlesford District Council. We will be working with our legal advisers precisely to achieve that objective.”