High Court won’t intervene on Stansted planning application being regarded as an NSIP

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed disappointment at the High Court decision, announced that the Secretary of State for Transport does not have a statutory duty to treat the current Stansted’s planning application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).​  SSE challenged the decision that the plans were not considered to be an NSIP in mid November. Though Uttlesford District Council originally approved the expansion plan in November 2018, the council then rejected the plans (new councillors after council elections) on 24th January 2020. It is likely that Manchester Airports Group, the owners of Stansted airport, will appeal against the Uttlesford decision, so the issues would be examined at a Public Inquiry, with the Secretary of State making the final decision.  That means that whether the airport’s expansion plans are regarded as an NSIP, or if the airport appeals, the final  decision would be by the Secretary of State. And SSE says the NSIP route would be cheaper for all concerned. 





7th Feb 2020

Stop Stansted Expansion Press release

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed disappointment at the High Court decision, announced today [7 February 2020], that the Secretary of State for Transport does not have a statutory duty to treat the current Stansted Airport planning application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).​

The case was heard in the High Court on 12-13 November 2019 by Mr Justice Dove where the central legal issue was the statutory definition of an NSIP under the Planning Act 2008. [Note 1]​

SSE began these High Court proceedings in August 2018 with the aim of ensuring that Stansted Airport’s planning application for permission to grow to 43 million passengers a year (mppa) would be scrutinised at national level rather than dealt with locally by Uttlesford District Council (UDC). ​

The expectation at that time was that UDC would approve the airport planning application and so SSE considered it important to have a second (legal) line of defence.

UDC did, provisionally, approve the application (in November 2018) but that provisional approval was overturned by the new UDC Planning Committee just two weeks ago [24 January 2020]. ​

The fact that it has taken the High Court almost three months to deliver its ruling indicates that the arguments may have been finely balanced. SSE has yet to decide whether to seek leave to appeal. ​

Should Stansted’s owners, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), appeal against UDC’s refusal to grant permission, the planning application would be examined at a Public Inquiry, with the Secretary of State making the final decision. [Note 2] In other words, the application would be decided at national level in any event.​

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “We are currently considering our options because there are different procedures to be followed depending on whether this application ends up being dealt with through the traditional appeal process of a Public Inquiry or is designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. The NSIP process would be less expensive and less resource-intensive than a Public Inquiry for both SSE and Uttlesford District Council.” ​

Peter Sanders added: “Regardless of how events unfold in the coming months and beyond, UDC’s rejection of these proposals for further major expansion at Stansted Airport has demonstrated the kind of resolve that we hope will be shown everywhere in future when an applicant seeks to ride roughshod over the health of the local community and in disregard of the climate emergency.”​




There are two principal ways in which a planning application can be determined at national level:​

1. Section 23 of the Planning Act 2008 sets down certain thresholds for airport development proposals to be categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). In addition, the Secretary of State for Transport has some discretion to define an airport development proposal as an NSIP under section 35 of the Act. NSIPs are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate which, after receiving an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) and reviewing all the relevant evidence, will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State as to whether to issue a DCO and, in the event of a decision to do so, on any conditions to be attached. ​

2. Section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides the right for an Applicant to appeal to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government against a Local Planning Authority’s refusal to grant planning permission. The Secretary of State will normally then appoint an Inspector to chair a Public Inquiry to consider the relevant evidence. In the case of substantial and/or controversial applications the Inspector does not make the final decision but instead provides a report with recommendations for a decision by the Secretary of State. ​


• Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman: 01799 520411; petersanders77@talktalk.net​
• Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: 01279 814961; (M) 07850 937143; brian.ross@lineone.net​
• SSE Campaign Office: 01279 870558; info@stopstanstedexpansion.com​



See earlier: 

Stop Stansted Expansion calls upon Manchester Airports Group to respect Uttlesford DC decision

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called upon the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – owners of Stansted airport – to respect the Uttlesford District Council (UDC)’s decision to refuse the airport’s latest expansion proposals – and has urged MAG not to appeal against the decision.​ Welcoming the Council’s decision to refuse permission, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “I would firstly like to express appreciation and gratitude to the Uttlesford councillors on the Planning Committee not only for reaching this decision today but also for the very thorough and professional manner in which they have dealt with this Planning Application.  I believe that I speak not only for Stop Stansted Expansion in this regard but for almost the entire local community.”​  If MAG lodges an appeal against UDC’s refusal to the Secretary of State, the consequence could be a lengthy public inquiry and continued uncertainty for the local community for another year or more.​  If there is an appeal, SSE has pledged itself to support UDC in presenting the case at public inquiry.  This should assist in minimising costs whilst also sharing technical expertise.​

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Stansted Airport expansion definitively rejected by Uttlesford council

Stansted expansion plans have been rejected by Uttlesford District councillors at a special planning committee meeting.  The decision was made with 10 councillors voting to overturn the previous approval, and two councillors, who were also members of SSE, abstaining. Officers had recommended approval of proposals to increase the airport’s passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million per year.  The expansion had included 2 new taxiways and 9 new hangars, expanding the number of flights it can handle from 227,000 up to 274,000. There are about 28 million passengers now per year.  Originally the council approved the plan, giving it conditional permission, but after the Residents for Uttlesford group took control from the Conservatives in May, the decision was referred back to the committee. The councillors who voted for expansion in 2018 lost their seats last year. Council officers said there were no new material considerations to justify a different decision from the one made in November 2018 when the plans were approved. It was a 7 hour meeting, “in which the chairman had to tell members of the public to stop applauding those opposing the plans.” It is possible MAG, which owns Stansted, may appeal.

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