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.
FURTHER LEGAL CHALLENGE AGAINST STANSTED AIRPORT PLANNING APPROVAL
PRESS RELEASE – Stop Stansted Expansion
26 MARCH 2019
Stop Stansted Expansion (‘SSE’) confirmed today [26 March] 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 Airport to 43 million passengers per annum (‘mppa’).
The Communities Secretary explained that 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 at odds with the facts.
The truth is that over half of Stansted’s passengers are either London residents or London visitors and its official designation, ‘London Stansted Airport’, is intended to emphasise its position as London’s third airport after Heathrow and Gatwick. In addition, within the next month or two, Stansted is expected to overtake Manchester to become the UK’s third busiest airport. Meanwhile, Stansted has fewer local employees than 15 years ago despite the airport’s growth. Nowadays, over 84% of its employees are not Uttlesford residents.
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 Airport this year will have significant adverse impacts not only at a national level but also internationally [Note 1].
In short, SSE believes that the Communities Secretary is both factually wrong and wrong in law to say that the further expansion of Stansted to become almost as big as today’s Gatwick does not involve issues of more than local importance, and so does not justify his intervention.
Paradoxically, the Chairman of UDC Planning Committee [Note 2] gave Brexit as his reason for using his additional casting vote to ensure that the application was approved (after his Committee was split down the middle) saying that there was a need to consider the wider picture, beyond the impacts on Uttlesford.
SSE’s legal proceedings will take the form of an application to the High Court for a Judicial Review (‘JR’) of the decision of the Communities Secretary not to call in the Stansted Airport planning application. 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 [Note 3]. This case was originally scheduled for a two-day High Court hearing in February but has been ‘stayed’ by the Judge to await the decision of the Communities Secretary, referred to above.
SSE is due to provide the Judge with an update on 29 March and has previously notified the High Court that it would seek to widen its challenge to include both Secretaries of State in the event of James Brokenshire taking the same line as Chris Grayling in refusing to consider the airport planning application at national level. SSE’s barristers will confirm this position to the Judge on 29 March and seek directions regarding the timetable and other arrangements for a rescheduled hearing against the two Secretaries of State.
In the meantime, 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. It is hoped that UDC will agree to this and thereby avoid the risk of becoming embroiled in the legal proceedings.
SSE Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “As we’ve said in the past, High Court proceedings are not cheap and so we do not take such actions lightly but only after careful thought and professional advice. SSE’s primary objective is to seek to safeguard the community and environment from unfettered and unsustainable airport expansion. Regrettably, legal proceedings are sometimes an unavoidable part of trying to achieve this objective.”
2. Councillor Alan Mills – Conservative member for Felsted and Stebbing, 14 November 2018.
3. See SSE press release of 9 August 2018 at http://stopstanstedexpansion.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
Government (James Brokenshire) rejects ‘call in’ of Stansted Airport planning application to increase passengers from 35m to 43 mppa
The Government has decided not to ‘call in’ Stansted Airport’s planning application to increase passenger numbers, which was approved by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) last year. In February 2018, Stansted Airport owners, Manchester Airports Group, submitted a planning application to UDC that sought permission for the airport to increase the annual passenger number from 35 to 43 million per year. UDC granted this planning permission in November 2018, by a narrow vote of the Planning Committee, only won by the Chairman’s casting vote. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has now written to say the decision by UDC is correct, saying: “… the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the secretary of state’s intervention.” That is, of course, wrong as planes using Stansted fly over a wide area. Brian Ross from campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said the planning consent still faces a legal challenge from SSE, versus the transport secretary in the High Court, which began last September. The case has been on hold for 4 months, pending the decision, but SSE is now takin legal advice on whether to widen the basis of its legal challenge.
UTTLESFORD COUNCIL PLANNING CHAIRMAN DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT HE WAS VOTING FOR!
Following the decision of the Chairman of Uttlesford Planning Committee, Councillor Alan Mills, to use his (additional) casting vote in favour of the airport planning application, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) health adviser, Professor Jangu Banatvala, wrote to him to ask whether he had reviewed the latest important WHO Noise Guidelines, published on 10th October, prior to voting. The disturbing reply from Councillor Mills suggests that he was not aware of the WHO Guidelines and he believed the planning application was for 174,000 flights, rather than 274,000. He did not appear to have understood that the application was for an increase in flights, by about 25,000 per year, despite claiming to have read a third of the documents. Five councillors voted in favour of the Stansted application, but SSE has found that at least some of them had either not read, or had not understood, even the most basic information about the application. SSE said this is entirely unsatisfactory. It confirms that this application should be dealt with at a higher level than a small district council, with limited resources to deal with such a significant application with such widespread implications. SSE’s lawyers are now working on the detailed legal submissions to the Secretary of State on why he must now ‘call in’ the application for national determination.
Uttlesford DC approves Stansted expansion plan, only by Chairman’s casting vote – but plans may now be “called in”
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed dismay and disappointment that the vote on 14th November)by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee granted approval for Stansted’s planning application to grow – to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers per annum (from the 35 million cap now). If this approval is allowed to stand, it would mean that Stansted could increase its flights by 44% and its passenger throughput by 66% compared, to last year’s levels. The Planning Committee, comprising ten elected Uttlesford councillors, split right down the middle with 5 in favour of the application (including the Planning Committee Chairman) and 5 against. Where there is a split vote, the Council rulebook gives the Chairman an additional (casting) vote – so he gets 2 votes. Both BBC and ITV regional news teams filmed the session, which was attended by many local people. UDC cannot issue a decision notice until the Sec of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) has considered whether the application should be called in. This should have been done already, as the planned expansion is very near the threshold necessary – of an increase by 10 million annual passengers. SSE will now submit further representations to the Secretary of State asking him (again) to call in the application. They are currently also legally challenging the decision.
Stop Stansted Expansion says Uttlesford DC planners’ recommendation is just an uncritical rehash of MAG’s claims
The recommendation by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) planning officers, published on 22 October, that the current airport planning application should be approved, will not surprise anyone who has followed UDC’s handling of this airport planning application from the beginning. As far back as July 2017 – before the application was even submitted – UDC were openly discussing concessions that might be extracted from Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted, in return for approving the application. SSE say the UDC officers’ report is little more than a rehash of MAG’s planning statement with no attempt made to challenge the many unsubstantiated and misleading claims made in the planning application. They say UDC planning officers haven’t even bothered to check the many wholly implausible assumptions made by MAG which allow it to claim that there would be no significant adverse impacts if the application is approved – thought that would mean a 66% increase in passengers and a 44% increase in flights compared to last year. But UDC say this “would not result in significant adverse impacts.” It is now for UDC councillors on the planning committee to decide. This case seems too large and complex for a small team of planning officers in a small local authority, without the necessary resources or expertise.