SSE tells Uttlesford Council to end the secrecy and intrigue about its handing of Stansted’s planning application
The Chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), Peter Sanders, has written to the Chief Executive of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), urging her to bring an end to the veil of secrecy which has surrounded UDC’s handling of the 2018 Stansted Airport planning application (to increase the passenger maximum from 35 to 43 million) over the past two months. UDC granted conditional approval on 14th November 2018. But it is now clear that the conditions laid down by the Planning Committee have not been met. The Committee also has a legal duty to consider any new material factors and changes (SSE has 6 examples) in circumstances that have arisen since November. But UDC officers continue to refuse to discuss any of the above matters with SSE. Instead, secret meetings have been held, with no minutes or other formal records. There is to be a council meeting on 28th June, including the legal advice the council has been given. SSE says it is hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that officers are trying to avoid any further public discussion of the outstanding issues in relation to the airport planning application, and issue final approval regardless of the outstanding concerns.
SSE TELLS COUNCIL CHIEF EXECUTIVE TO END THE SECRECY AND INTRIGUE
10th June 2019 (From Stop Stansted Expansion – SSE)
The Chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion (‘SSE’), Peter Sanders, has written to the Chief Executive of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), Ms Dawn French, urging her to bring an end to the veil of secrecy which has surrounded UDC’s handling of the 2018 Stansted Airport planning application over the past two months.
The application sought approval for an increase in the permitted throughput from 35 million to 43 million passengers per annum (mppa). Despite the fact that this is almost as much as today’s Gatwick, the application was granted conditional approval by the UDC Planning Committee on 14 November 2018.
However, it has now been clearly demonstrated that the conditions laid down by the Planning Committee have not been met.
In addition, before granting final approval the Planning Committee has a legal duty to consider any new material factors and changes in circumstances that have arisen in the seven months that have passed since November last year when the application was conditionally approved.
SSE has now provided UDC with six clear examples of new material factors and changes in circumstances since November 2018.
UDC officers continue to refuse to discuss any of the above matters with SSE. Instead, they have recently held three meetings with councillors, behind closed doors, for which no minutes or other formal records are publicly available.
In fact, it is not even recorded on the UDC website that such meetings ever took place. It is understood that the purpose of these meetings was to consider the legal advice obtained by the Council in relation to the airport planning application. Councillors have been warned by the senior legal officer at UDC, in the severest terms, about the need to maintain total secrecy as to any legal advice UDC has received regarding its handling of the airport planning application.
At least two of the recent Council meetings held behind closed doors were said to be in preparation for an Extraordinary Council Meeting (ECM) due to be held, in public, on Monday 3 June to consider an earlier instruction from councillors to Ms French and her officers [see Note 1], not to issue final approval for the airport planning application until councillors had received independent legal corroboration and were satisfied that final approval could be issued. A number of members of the public had been given permission to speak at the ECM on Monday 3 June.
However, on Friday 31 May, UDC advised those members of the public who were due to speak at the ECM that the meeting had been postponed at short notice and would not now take place until Friday 28 June.
The reason given was that further legal advice was not expected to be available until 31 May and, according to Ms French, this allowed too little time for councillors “to reflect upon and the need for further clarification of the legal advice in order to form a clearer proposition of the way forward”.
It is understood that it was not until Friday 7 June that councillors received the further legal advice that was promised by 31 May and another ‘behind closed doors’ meeting has now been arranged for Wednesday 12 June to which only selected councillors have been invited. SSE has been told that the intention of this meeting is to seek to annul the instruction to Ms French not to issue final approval for the airport planning application until councillors had received independent legal corroboration and were satisfied that final approval could be issued. [ie. that she might approve it finally]
It is difficult to avoid drawing the conclusion that officers are intent on avoiding any further public discussion of the outstanding issues in relation to the airport planning application.
Having postponed the ECM until 28 June, it would appear that officers now wish to avoid this altogether. Moreover, officers continue to resist requests to refer the airport planning application back to the UDC Planning Committee for reconsideration despite the clear legal justification for doing so. SSE has provided overwhelming evidence of the legal justification in the latest letter from Peter Sanders to the Council’s Chief Executive.
The impression given is that officers are intent on issuing final approval for the airport planning application regardless of the outstanding concerns.
Following the local elections on 2 May there was a dramatic change in the political make-up of the Council but this seems to have made no difference whatsoever to the longstanding determination of officers to provide Manchester Airports Group, as quickly as possible, with final approval for Stansted Airport to grow to 43mppa.
Peter Sanders, in writing to the Uttlesford Chief Executive [Note 2], said: “Once again, instead of resisting proposals from elected UDC members and others for [the airport planning application] to be referred back to the Planning Committee for further consideration, I urge you to make a clear recommendation for that referral to be made forthwith.”
Mr Sanders ended his letter with a plea for greater openness and dialogue: “Finally, I would like to make a renewed plea to you to re-establish a sensible dialogue with SSE. In the seventeen years since SSE was established we have never previously experienced a situation where UDC officers refused even to meet SSE. The absence of an open dialogue is to the advantage of neither UDC nor SSE and I would reaffirm our willingness to discuss the above matters and other airport-related issues with you and/or your officers at any time.”
1) The instruction arises from a requisition under the Council’s rules of procedure for an Extraordinary Council Meeting (ECM) dated 25th April 2019 and duly validated, which states as follows:
“To instruct the Chief Executive and fellow officers not to issue the Planning Decision Notice for planning application UTT/18/0460/FUL until members have had an opportunity to review and obtain independent legal corroboration that the legal advice provided to officers, including the QC opinion referred to by the Leader of the Council on 9th April 2019, confirms that the proposed Section 106 Agreement with Stansted Airport Limited fully complies with the Resolution approved by the Planning Committee on 14 November 2018 such that officers re lawfully empowered to conclude and seal the Agreement without further reference to the Planning Committee.”
2) A copy of Mr Sanders’ letter of 10 June 2019 to UDC CEO is available on request from SSE office.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
- Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman, T 01799 520411;firstname.lastname@example.org
• Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: 01279 814961; (M) 07850 937143 email@example.com
• SSE Campaign Office: 01279 870558; firstname.lastname@example.org
Uttlesford decision on Stansted: New councillors mean an opportunity for a fresh approach
The previous council at Uttlesford voted through expansion proposals for Stansted Airport, in November 2018, but the Chairman’s casting vote. It then came to light jhat at least some of the councillors had either not read, or had not understood, even the most basic information about the application. Now with the council elections in early May, there has been a huge re-shuffling. Local group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) says this left no doubt as to its dissatisfaction with the incumbent administration. The Conservatives retained just 4 out of their 24 seats, making this proportionately the largest loss by any ruling party in any District Council in the entire country. The 5 members of the Council’s Planning Committee who voted in favour of the Stansted Airport planning application last November are no longer councillors, whereas the 5 who voted against were all re-elected. Voters were unhappy that an unpopular administration had attached greater priority to the commercial interests of Manchester Airports Group than to the wellbeing of local residents. SSE now looks forward to re-establishing a constructive dialogue with the Council.
SSE takes Communities Secretary James Brokenshire to JR on Stansted expansion, including its CO2 emissions
Campaign group, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) say they will use latest EU figures showing Ryanair as one of Europe’s biggest polluters in their latest judicial challenge. Currently about 21 million of Ryanair’s 130 million passengers in 2018 travelled via Stansted. Ryanair has the highest CO2 emissions (for intra-EU flights) of any European airline. Its flights emitted 9.9 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, up 6.9% on 2017, and up 49% over the past 5 years. SSE say the added argument of the vast carbon emissions, to only be hugely worsened by expansion to 43 mppa, is another reason why the planning consent by Uttlesford council, for the airport expansion, should be called in for determination by the government. The Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has said his reason for not intervening was that the application does not involve issues of “more than local importance.” Carbon emissions are indeed of much more than local significance – it is a global issue. Brian Ross, from SSE said: “You can’t just allow local authorities to approve an increase in carbon emissions as they like. There needs to be national co-ordination.”
Stop Stansted Expansion to start legal challenge to government decision not to call in expansion application
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has confirmed that it will commence legal proceedings to challenge last week’s decision [20 March] by the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire not to intervene in the decision by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to approve the expansion of Stansted to 43 mppa. Brokenshire said his reason for not intervening was that “the application does not involve issues of more than local importance”. SSE considers this conclusion to be completely wrong. In the next month or two, Stansted is expected to overtake Manchester to become the UK’s 3rd busiest airport. The noise, air pollution, community health and road traffic impacts of Stansted are felt far beyond the borders of Uttlesford, and the 3.7 million equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide attributable to Stansted flights this year will have significant adverse global impacts. SSE will apply to the High Court for a JR of Brokenshire’s decision. SSE solicitors have written to UDC pointing out that it would be inappropriate for UDC to issue any decision in relation to the airport planning application whilst these legal challenges are pending. SSE already has an outstanding JR application against the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, over his decision of 28 June 2018 to allow the airport planning application to be determined locally by UDC.
And more Stansted Airport news at