A public inquiry into the project is likely to start next year amid fierce opposition
from environmental campaigners, local residents and local authorities.
BAA, which operates seven airports in the UK including Heathrow, Gatwick and
Stansted, applied for planning permission in March.
Under the proposed timetable the first phase of the £2.5bn project could open
BAA proposes to create the capacity to handle 68m passengers a year, the equivalent
of Heathrow airport, by about 2030, compared with Stansted’s present capacity
of 25m on the existing runway.
BAA is waiting for a -government decision, expected soon, from an earlier planning
inquiry to raise the single runway capacity limit to 35m passengers a year.
Demand has been slowing at Stansted after several years of rapid growth. It handled
23.4m passengers in the 12 months to the end of May, a fall year-on-year of 1.6
per cent. The current capital investment plan forecasts a rise to 38m passengers
a year by 2015/16.
The airport is largely used by European short-haul, low-cost carriers. BAA’s
ambition to develop a network of long-haul destinations has suffered several setbacks,
including the bankruptcies of two US business class airlines – Maxjet Airways
and Eos Airlines – and the decision by American Airlines to end its short-lived
experiment of operating between Stansted and New York JFK.
The American Airlines service, launched last October, was withdrawn last week
as part of the group’s capacity cut in the face of sharply rising fuel costs.
BAA’s continued ownership of the three leading London airports is under investigation
by the Competition Commission, which is expected to report its preliminary findings