Uttlesford Conservatives pledge to work with Stansted Airport
The leader of Uttlesford District Council's (UDC) Conservative group has offered an olive branch to Stansted Airport bosses.
Cllr Christian Criscione has written to managing director Steve Griffiths offering "positive collaboration" and asking for a meeting.
The district council, run by the Tories' political rivals Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), has finally pulled the plug on efforts to stop expansion at the airport, after racking up a bill estimated at £2.6m.
That includes around £1.5m that UDC chief executive Peter Holt expects the council to pay in costs to Stansted operator Manchester Airports Group (MAG).
They were awarded after UDC reviewed planning permission for expansion it granted in November 2018, when the Tories were in power.
In June 2019, after R4U won control of the council in the previous month's local elections, councillors voted to return MAG's application to the council's planning committee. In January 2020 councillors voted to reject the plans, triggering MAG's appeal at the start of this year – which ended in a resounding victory for the airport and a hefty bill for the council.
In a bid to block those costs, the council launched legal action to seek a planning statutory review but was roundly rebuffed – and ordered to pay around £30,000 in yet more costs.
Cllr Criscione, who represents Flitch Green and Little Dunmow, has been scathing about R4U's leadership. He told the Indie: "At the expense of millions of pounds meant to directly benefit our communities, this administration tried playing politics with the planning system, bodged their attempt and now look to blame anyone but themselves.
"When there's no funding for community projects, services for the young, the elderly or disabled, we can confidently say that this is down to the utterly shambolic incompetence of Residents for Uttlesford party.
"When your council tax goes up to eye-watering levels, when your bins aren't collected, when community lifelines like day centres are closed down, remember that it is R4U that caused it.
"UDC must work positively with the airport to mitigate its impact whilst it supports many jobs and our regional economy, not virtue signalling and playing fast and loose with taxpayers' hard-earned money."
Cllr Criscione told Mr Griffiths: "On behalf of many residents across the district and the Conservative councillors that represent them, I would like to reassure you that we want to work positively with you and your colleagues at Stansted Airport moving forward to maximise the potential for positive growth across the region, continue to drive high levels of local employment as a direct and indirect result of your operations and ensure that we are working collaboratively to promote sustainable travel in and out of the airport both on the ground and through the air."
He recognised that the airport was working hard to reduce its carbon footprint in the same way as the council.
"We must move forward together, in tandem, pulling on our collective influence to change aviation for the better and in line with ambitious Government policies for carbon reduction and net-zero," he said.
"Be under no illusion, it is our collective responsibility to make that gradual change at pace so as to meet the need to combat climate change. However, it is also a matter of compromise, deliberation and sacrifice that will lead to the optimal result.
"It serves no one to be adversarial in these matters, so with the big picture in mind there needs to be harmony."
R4U leader Cllr John Lodge and party chairman Dan Starr did not respond to an Indie question about who should take responsibility for the council's bill in respect of Stansted Airport.
A spokesman for MAG declined to comment about the Conservative letter.