BAA seeks delay in 2nd Stansted runway inquiry

22.5.2009   (Guardian)

– Order to sell Stansted made planning process ‘less reliable’

– New blow to government’s airport expansion policy

by Dan Milmo, Transport correspondent


The government’s airport expansion policy was dealt a further blow today after
BAA asked for the postponement of a planning inquiry into a second runway at Stansted.

If the request is granted, there will be little chance of a new runway being
built in south-east England before 2020, with planning inquiries into expanding
Stansted and Heathrow airports unable to go ahead until after the general election.
In a letter to the communities and local government secretary, Hazel Blears, Britain’s
largest airport owner said the planning process was now “less reliable” because
it had lodged an appeal against a Competition Commission order to sell Stansted.

“The timetable and the process for considering the … applications previously
contemplated by the inquiry inspector may now appear less reliable for both the
communities and for BAA as a result of the current position regarding the CC’s
investigation, and where that might lead,” said Alastair McDermid, BAA’s planning

BAA’s chances of getting permission to build a second runway at the Essex airport
were already receding before it sought an inquiry postponement.   Essex county
council, which is leading local political opposition to the new runway, had warned
that an inquiry might not end until September next year at the earliest – after
the next general election. The Conservative party, ahead in the polls and the
favourite to win an election, has promised to scrap proposals for new runways
at Stansted and Heathrow if it gets into power.

BAA had already pushed back the earliest possible date of a second runway opening
at Stansted by two years, to 2017, because there are not enough passengers to
meet demand. The airport group has conceded that an expanded Stansted would not
attract the necessary 35 million passengers a year until well into the next decade.

Stop Stansted Expansion, an anti-runway campaign group, urged BAA to withdraw
the application altogether. “Having it hang like the sword of Damocles over the
community for years is wrong. BAA should do the decent thing and withdraw the
application,” said Carol Barbone, campaign director at SSE (see SSE press release).