Stansted Airport growth: Uttlesford District Council votes to review planning permission
Stansted Airport bosses are "considering their options" after councillors ignored legal advice and decided to review their own planning permission for expansion to 43 million passengers a year.
At an extraordinary meeting of Uttlesford District Council on Friday (June 28), members voted to return Manchester Airports Group's application to the planning committee and risk a costly appeal.
When the application to increase the current limit of 35m passengers a year was granted in November last year, the council had a Conservative administration, but the Tories were almost wiped out at the local government elections in May. when the Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) party swept to power and the Liberal Democrats became the new opposition.
Both R4U and the Lib Dems have been determined to force a review of the permission, agreeing with the Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) protest group that conditions attached to the consent do not go far enough.
A spokesman for Stansted Airport, which currently handles more than 28m passengers every 12 months, said: "We are concerned that the council has not only chosen to ignore the recommendations of its own officers but also disregarded its independent legal advice, which supports the original view that there is no legitimate reason to withhold approval for this application.
"Our frustration at this delay will no doubt also be shared by the considerable number of local residents, businesses, staff and on-site partners who have passionately backed these plans, which will boost our region's economic growth and deliver 5,000 additional jobs.
"From the outset we have listened to local views and this feedback led us to put forward a proposal which maintained the cap on the number of flights and committed to deliver the growth within a legally binding smaller noise footprint than our existing permissions require. This forms part of a comprehensive set of mitigation measures which have been independently endorsed.
"We remain in discussion with the council while we consider all the options available to us."
Uttlesford's R4U leader, Cllr John Lodge, said: "There is a strong belief that the previous Conservative council administration tried to rush through the expansion before the May election. Stansted Airport is a significant part of our district and is nationally important, so it has to be done properly.
"The proposed expansion to nearly the size of Gatwick will bring jobs, but it will have a big negative impact on surrounding communities, our roads and railways, and particularly the environment. These impacts must be properly mitigated and so the council has voted for a new review before planning is granted.
"Very importantly, there are also new material considerations that directly relate to aviation. The UK's brand new Carbon Net Zero 2050 legislation was signed into law this week, a recent High Court decision backed Heathrow's third runway, the Government's issued its Aviation 2050 strategy and the European airport association has agreed its own Climate Change Net Zero initiative. These must now also be considered. If the airport's owners appeal this decision, it could well be the UK's first test case for the new Carbon Net Zero 2050 legislation."
SSE presented a petition with more than 1,600 signature to the meeting and chairman Peter Sanders said: "It was a truly uplifting day for local democracy, but this is only a first step.
"The planning committee will make its decision based purely on the facts, not emotion or popular opinion.
"SSE's task now is to provide all the relevant evidence and analysis to the planning committee so that it can make the right decision. We will take nothing for granted."