The owner of Stansted is delivering a submission to the Airports Commission including two options for a second runway and pointing to its potential transformation into Britain’s biggest four-runway hub.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) will argue that the airport offers the cheapest and least environmentally damaging location if the government-appointed commission decides that a single super-hub is the answer to the country’s aviation needs.
It estimates the cost of transformation into a four-runway hub at £10bn, although no detailed plans have been drawn up. However, MAG stresses that it believes far more passengers could be served without immediately expanding its infrastructure and will present Stansted as the most flexible option to meet growing demand for flights.
Local campaigners said the proposals were “opportunistic, irresponsible and pointless”.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, said: “Our short-term priority is to make Stansted better for passengers than ever before, and we’ve made major progress in our first four months of ownership, including starting work on an £80m terminal transformation.
“Stansted is uniquely placed to meet the UK’s aviation capacity needs now and over the next 15 years. Almost overnight, Stansted could double the number of flights it handles without any need for significant investment in new infrastructure.
MAG is anxious to promote the claims of its other airports, primarily Manchester, as well as East Midlands and Bournemouth. All have spare capacity and the regional airports point to millions of passengers who travel to London rather than flying from their nearest base.
Cornish said MAG believed an approach that maintained competition between airports was the best solution. He said: “Developing new capacity at a number of airports is likely to be best for passengers. Should the commission take a different view and conclude that the UK needs an effective hub to provide international connectivity, then Stansted could certainly fulfil that role in a cost-effective way.
“The costs and the environmental impacts of building new capacity at Stansted are likely to be far lower than at alternative locations.”
MAG will say an additional runway could be built either to the north-west or the east of the existing runway, raising its capacity to between 70 and 90 million passengers a year.
An expanded Stansted’s noise impact would be a small fraction of Heathrow’s. Only 1,250 residents currently suffer noise above the 57 decibel average nuisance threshold, compared with 258,500 at Heathrow.
Local campaigners Stop Stansted Expansion said that the MAG proposals were reheating plans put forward back in 2002 that were withdrawn by BAA, the former owners, in 2010.
The campaign group’s chairman, Peter Sanders, said: “We really shouldn’t have to go through this whole argument again just three years after the last threat was lifted. We are profoundly disappointed that MAG has behaved in this opportunistic and irresponsible way.
“With the airport currently operating at only half its permitted capacity a second runway – never mind a four-runway hub double the size of Heathrow today – is completely unnecessary on business grounds and it would be completely unacceptable on environmental grounds.”
MAG bought Stansted from Heathrow early this year for £1.5bn after its former owners were forced to sell by the Competition Commission. The group has said it will invest £230m in transforming the current facilities after years of passenger decline.
The Airports Commission, led by the former Financial Services Authority chief, Sir Howard Davies, set this Friday as a deadline for submitting long-term proposals for new runways. Heathrow and Gatwick are both arguing for extra runways, while London mayor Boris Johnson has argued for new airports in the Thames estuary or Stansted expansion. A shortlist of options will be announced by the end of 2013, with final recommendations published after the 2015 general election.
HERE WE GO AGAIN – SSE SLAMS OPPORTUNISTIC, IRRESPONSIBLE AND POINTLESS EXPANSION PROPOSALS FOR STANSTED
19.7.2013 (Stop Stansted Expansion)
Proposals today from the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) to develop Stansted into a two-runway, or even a four-runway, airport have been described by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) as “opportunistic, irresponsible and pointless”.
Commenting on the submission to the Airports Commission, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “It is of little consolation that MAG has framed its proposals in an unenthusiastic, half-hearted way which grudgingly admits that it would be ‘willing’ to add an extra runway or runways at Stansted, about 15 years from now, if that’s what the Airports Commission and the Government decide is best. This will be seen by many as an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for any decision to expand the airport.”
The MAG proposals resurrect the expansion options for Stansted put forward by the Government almost exactly eleven years ago, in July 2002. These all came to nothing but it took an eight-year battle before BAA, the former owner of the airport, conceded defeat and withdrew its plans for a second runway.
During that time – from 2002 to 2010 – needless stress and anxiety was caused to those whose homes were threatened by the bulldozer and over a £1billion was wiped off local house prices – all for nothing. Now, just three years later, there is the prospect of another prolonged battle over the same issue.
Peter Sanders added: “We really shouldn’t have to go through this whole argument again just three years after the last threat was lifted. We are profoundly disappointed that MAG has behaved in this opportunistic and irresponsible way.”
“We will be doing everything possible to convince the Airports Commission to reject the idea of any new runways at Stansted. With the airport currently operating at only half its permitted capacity a second runway – never mind a four-runway hub double the size of Heathrow today – is completely unnecessary on business grounds and it would be completely unacceptable on environmental grounds. Even looking 15 years down the line and beyond, there is no case for Stansted to be one of the short-listed options.”
Mr Sanders concluded: “This will once again create widespread blight and uncertainty in the local community, and once again it will prove to be a pointless exercise. As in the past, any proposals for an extra runway or runways at Stansted will be met with fierce local opposition, will be fought tooth and nail, and will ultimately be defeated.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
Today’s proposals from MAG are contained in its submission to the Airports Commission, the independent body, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, which has been given the job of advising Government what, if anything, needs to be done to maintain the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.
It will now be for the Airports Commission to consider MAG’s proposals for Stansted alongside other airport expansion proposals it has received, including for Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham and for a new airport in the Thames Estuary. The Commission will produce a shortlist by the end of the year and will make its final recommendations in two years’ time, in mid-2015.