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Stansted Airport agrees £35m investment as councillors are recommended to rubber-stamp passenger expansion

Approval for expansion at Stansted Airport should be granted, according to Uttlesford District Council’s experts – despite political efforts to block the development.

After a 14-month delay and despite more than £90,000 being spent on independent legal advice, a report to a special UDC planning committee meeting on Friday January 24 recommends councillors rubber-stamp the scheme to increase the airport's passenger numbers from the current maximum of 35 million a year to 43m.

Annual traffic is currently around 28m. Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has committed to achieving the new capacity without exceeding the existing flights limit of 274,000 a year and with a 15% smaller noise 'footprint'.

Records tumble at Stansted Airport. (26385362)
Records tumble at Stansted Airport. (26385362)

The operator has also agreed to a £35m investment plan as part of its contentious Section 106 agreement with the council.

The planning application was first approved in November 2018, but when the Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) party seized control of the council in last May’s local elections, the scheme was left in limbo, pending a planning committee review of mitigation measures and climate change concerns.

After the UDC officers' recommendation was made public on Thursday evening (January 9), Stansted’s chief executive Ken O’Toole said: “We have listened to the community from the outset and remain absolutely committed to delivering additional passenger growth in a sustainable manner, without an increase in the number of permitted flights and within a smaller noise footprint than our existing permission requires.

Ken O'Toole at the first Emirates flight launch in June 2018 (26385300)
Ken O'Toole at the first Emirates flight launch in June 2018 (26385300)

“The independently reviewed environmental analysis of our application is clear. It shows that our comprehensive package of community, transport and environmental mitigation adheres to the tests set out in the planning process and will enable the benefits of a thriving Stansted to be fully realised while actively managing any environmental impacts associated with our future growth.

“There is no denying that the airport delivers substantial benefits to the Uttlesford, Essex and East of England economies. This comes in many forms, but most notably from the 12,000 people employed across the 200-plus employers at the airport, including over 2,000 Uttlesford residents.

"Growth to 43m passengers a year will generate 5,000 more jobs at the airport and a further £1 billion of additional economic and social benefit.

“We have been working hard with the council over recent months to better understand their concerns and have put forward proposals which are legally sound and present a proportionate mitigation package. We would hope the committee take this on board, along with the advice they have received from their own officers and independent legal advisors when they meet in the coming weeks.”

Stansted Airport. (26385356)
Stansted Airport. (26385356)

The core elements of the £35m investment

* £12m of funding for local transport schemes will be generated from extending the airport’s Sustainable Transport Fund to include revenue from its Express Set Down facility. This money will be invested in delivering sustainable travel schemes across Uttlesford and the further provision of public transport services and facilities.

* A ring-fenced £1m fund to support new bus routes and encourage use of new low-emission vehicles.

* More than £2m for improving local roads in Uttlesford, including over £1m on upgrading junction 8 of the M11.

* A Sound Insulation Grant Scheme (SIGS) for those living closest to the airport. This would be available to more houses, be tiered up to £10,000 in value per household and require no contribution from the householder. Funding will also be specifically allocated to 18 noise-sensitive community facilities in the district, including five schools and two healthcare facilities.

* Guaranteed ongoing support for the airport’s on-site college, Aerozone and academy, to contribute to raising educational achievement and creating more job opportunities. The college is developing into the UK’s first centre of excellence for aviation skills and employment.

* Continuation of the annual Meet the Buyers events, which have helped generate £24m for businesses over the last nine years, and the annual jobs fair, which attracted over 800 potential employees in 2019.

* A revamped Community Trust Fund with increased funding of a minimum of £150,000 a year, enabling support for more local community projects, with parish and town councils now being eligible to apply.

The airport has also pledged to:

* Retain the highest public transport use of any major UK airport at over 50% through funding and support for the Stansted Area Transport Forum.

* Monitor air quality and mitigate any harm to sites of ecological value.

* Offer discounts to train commuters parking at Stansted.

* Urge the Government to tighten penalty limits to enable the airport to levy heavier fines for noisy aircraft, with money collected to be fed into local community projects.

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