Stansted applies to UDC to raise the current passenger number cap from 35 mppa to 43 mppa

Stansted airport has submitted a planning application to Uttlesford District Council to raise the current cap on the number of passengers it is permitted to handle from 35 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 43mppa, while committing to remain within current approved limits on aircraft noise and flight numbers. This is to make best use of the airport’s existing single runway over the next decade (with the usual claims of economic benefits, jobs etc etc).  Stansted say their expansion, from 35 mppa, would ease pressure on the London airport system when Heathrow and Gatwick are capacity constrained. However, local group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), says the airport handled about 25 mppa in 2017, and has permission to grow to 35 mppa, granted after a 5-month public inquiry in 2007. Despite this, in summer 2017 the airport’s owners, MAG, said they “urgently” needed permission to expand to a massive 44.5 million passenger airport over the next 12 years. They claim there will be no more noise, but in practice the gap between planes on average would reduce from about 135 seconds now, to about 85 seconds. SSE says the changes in the current application are “almost entirely presentational.”


London Stansted Airport commits to long-term growth within approved flight and noise limits

22.2.2018 (Stansted Airport press release)


Request to raise restrictions on annual passenger numbers from 35m to 43m will enable Stansted to meet demand over the next decade

Airport commits to delivering growth within approved flight and environmental restrictions following extensive consultation with local community

Unlocking further capacity will create more choice and competition for consumers and support 5,000 new jobs at the airport

Businesses across the UK and in the vibrant East of England to benefit from long-haul connectivity to fast-growing markets like China, India and USA.


London Stansted has today submitted a planning application to Uttlesford District Council to raise the current cap on the number of passengers it is permitted to serve from 35 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 43mppa, while committing to remain within current approved limits on aircraft noise and flight numbers. The application has been shaped by an extensive consultation between the airport and local communities.

The application seeks permission to make best use of the airport’s existing single runway over the next decade, a move which will deliver significant economic benefits to the UK and the vibrant East of England region, create 5,000 new on-site jobs, improve passenger choice and convenience and boost international long-haul routes to fast-growing markets like China, India and the US. The application will also ease pressure on the London airport system by unlocking additional capacity at a time when other airports are full.

Detailed analysis included in the planning application demonstrates how the ongoing introduction of the next generation of new quieter aircraft will ensure that future passenger growth can be achieved without increasing the number of flights or noise footprint already permitted. For example, the new Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 Neo aircraft currently being brought into service by Ryanair and easyJet are up to 50% quieter than the aircraft they are replacing.

In the five years since MAG acquired Stansted, annual passenger numbers have increased by nearly 10 million to 26mppa. This growth has been delivered through a 25% increase in destinations served by the airport (190) and a doubling of the number of airlines using the airport (22). Stansted is the best-connected UK airport for flights to Europe and during 2018 will see a rapid expansion of its long-haul route network with services being added to New York, Boston, Toronto, Washington DC and Dubai and the 150 onward destinations it offers.

Stansted now anticipates reaching its current cap of 35mppa by the early 2020s and in order for the airport to build on its momentum and provide long term clarity to airlines wanting to use its facilities, now is the right time to consider the framework for its growth beyond the current limit.

MAG has also invested heavily in the facilities at Stansted Airport, spending £150m on improving the passenger experience. Recently, work began on the second phase of Stansted’s transformation – a five-year, £600 million construction programme that will see a new arrivals building and conversion of the existing terminal into a dedicated departing passenger-only facility.

Stansted has committed to ensuring that its growth provides long term benefits for its local communities and an on-site educational facility, the Aerozone, has already welcomed nearly 10,000 young people in the two years since it opened. Later this year, an £11 million on-site further education college will also open and provide hundreds of students with a host of skills relevant for careers in the aviation, engineering, and hospitality industries.

“Today, London Stansted Airport is virtually unrecognisable from the one which MAG acquired almost five years ago to the day. During this time, we have spent £150m on upgrading the terminal, added nearly 10 million passengers, more than doubled the number of airlines and developed a short-haul route network which is the best in Europe.

“Looking to the future, demand at Stansted is predicted to remain strong and with constraints on runway capacity in the South-East increasing, we are expecting to reach our current limit on passenger numbers in the early 2020s. We are now at the point where it is right to consider the framework for the airport’s growth beyond the current limit.

“From day one, we have been guided by a belief that when our business prospers, the regions and communities in which we operate also prosper and I am proud of the fact that we have managed to deliver our growth in a phased way and worked hard to closely involve our local communities in this journey.

“Over the past six months we have consulted widely on our future growth plans and based on the feedback from these discussions, we’ve made sure our growth can be achieved within current limits on flight numbers and with no increase in the size of the airport’s noise footprint. This is good news for local residents.

“In addition, thousands more local jobs will be created and our long-haul connectivity to fast-growing markets like China, USA, India will receive a real boost. The recent announcement by Emirates that it will begin daily services to Dubai, in addition to Primera Air launching flights to New York, Boston, Washington and Toronto this year, is a clear statement of what the airport can achieve and we are talking to a range of airlines who are looking to grow their operations at Stansted.

“It is vital for the region that Stansted is able to build on its momentum and the long-term proposals that we have outlined today will enable us to do this and more importantly, provide the local community with confidence that future growth can be delivered in a measured and sustainable way.”
Ken O’ Toole, CEO of London Stansted


Information from Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), the local community group



Written in late 2017

Stansted Airport handled 24.3 million passengers last year (2016) and in 2017 will handle just over 25 million. It already has permission to grow to 35 million, granted after a five-month public inquiry held in 2007.

Despite this, Manchester Airports Group, Stansted’s owners, said this summer that it “urgently” needed permission to expand to a massive 44.5 million passenger airport over the next 12 years.

The expansion plans would have meant almost 20 million more passengers and an extra 104,000 flights annually compared with today. This translates into an aircraft overflying during daytime hours from the current average of every 2¼ minutes, (ie. 135 seconds) to a plane every 85 seconds, in contrast to the airport’s claim that there will be “no significant adverse environmental effects”.

Since then, clearly taken aback by the scale of the community’s response, there has been a retrenching by Stansted’s owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG), dressed up in the guise of ‘having listened to the community’. MAG claims that it has reduced the scale of its proposed expansion but the reality is that its changes are almost entirely presentational.

SSE views this as a cynical ploy to minimise opposition to the planning application as it consists simply of: 

a) Removing the projection of 44.5 million passengers in 2029 and projecting no further than 2028, where the figure remains at 43 million passengers; and 

b) Claiming that this level of throughput can be handled with 274,000 aircraft movements per annum rather than its original proposal for 284,000 aircraft movements, while remaining vague as to what constitutes an aircraft movement.

What Stansted Airport fails to point out, however, is that the present annual flights cap of 274,000 is meaningless, because the present planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum will, by MAG’s own admission, be achieved with only 243,000 flights.. The effect of raising the passenger cap would therefore be to enable the airport to increase the number of flights by 31,000.

Moreover, compared to Stansted’s actual level of activity last year – 24.3 million passengers and 181,000 flights, an increase in the limits to 43 million passengers and 274,000 flights per annum represents a 77% increase in passengers (giving rise to a similar level of increase in airport-related road traffic) and a 51% increase in flights, i.e. an extra 1,800 flights per week.

The application is now expected in early 2018 at which point we will be scrutinising its contents – and UDC’s handling of its review – in order to make representations on such issues as noise from overflying, impacts on local roads and rail, community well-being and quality of life.

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See also:


SSE Submission to UDC on Stansted Airport Scoping Report (July 2017)

SSE Asks: What’s the Rush? What’s the Truth? (July 2017)

SSE Warns Don’t be Hoodwinked by Stansted Spin (6 July 2017)

Airport Environmental Scoping Report for 44.5 Million Passengers (June 2017)

Planning Portal – Documents for Airport Expansion Application (June 2017)

SSE Brands Airport Expansion Plans Premature and Opportunistic   (19 June 2017)