MAG to appeal council’s refusal of Stansted expansion proposals – SSE says this is “CALLOUS, CYNICAL AND POINTLESS”
MAG to appeal council’s refusal of Stansted expansion proposals – SSE says this is “CALLOUS, CYNICAL AND POINTLESS”
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman, Peter Sanders, has described yesterday’s announcement from the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) of its intention to appeal against the council’s refusal of its Stansted Airport expansion proposals as “callous, cynical and pointless”.
MAG was seeking an increase in the permitted throughput at Stansted from the present limit of 35 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 43mppa. Stansted’s actual throughput in 2019 was 28 million passengers and will be very significantly lower this year due to the impact of Covid-19.
Uttlesford District Council (UDC) first received MAG’s expansion proposals for Stansted in June 2017 and spent more than two and a half years considering the issues prior to 24 January 2020 when its (cross-party) Planning Committee voted by ten votes to zero to refuse the application.
Before the vote was taken, Stansted CEO Ken O’Toole, thanked “the UDC members and officers for the time and effort they have devoted to carefully and professionally considering our application, particularly over the past few months”. MAG had insisted from the outset that its planning application should be determined locally rather than nationally, and that UDC was the “competent and appropriate authority” to deal with its application – a view that was endorsed by the Secretary of State, over-ruling SSE’s view that the scale of the application meant that it should be determined nationally (see Notes below).
Reaction from SSE
Mr Sanders commented: “It is the height of cynicism for MAG to insist all along that its planning application should be determined locally and then, when it does not obtain the result it wants, to appeal to the Secretary of State to set up a Public Inquiry, aimed at overturning the local decision. MAG chose the playing field and it should therefore respect the democratic verdict of our local council.”
Mr Sanders added: “Following the UDC refusal on 24 January, MAG had (in law) six months to appeal and stated yesterday that it will submit its appeal “later this month”. In other words, MAG is leaving this to the last possible moment. A Public Inquiry would mean that the final outcome might not be known for another 18 months and could cost our local council up to £1.7 million. In the current circumstances, clearly there is tremendous pressure on local finances and there are far more important priorities.”
Mr Sanders concluded: “By prolonging the uncertainty in this way and forcing an enormous cost burden upon local council taxpayers, MAG shows a callous disregard not only for local democracy but also for the local community, who deserve some peace of mind, not a constant threat from an airport with an insatiable appetite for expansion”.
SSE is currently considering legal options which might yet thwart a Public Inquiry. However, if an Inquiry cannot be avoided, SSE will offer every assistance to UDC in defending its position. This will include extensive expert evidence highlighting the unacceptable impacts of the proposed expansion in relation to climate change, noise, air pollution and health impacts on the local community and the inadequate capacity of the local road and rail infrastructure.
Finally, the impact of Covid-19 raises fundamental questions about the need to approve further airport expansion at this time. Stansted will handle about half of its permitted 35mppa throughput this year and so there is no urgency whatsoever to raise this cap to 43mppa. It would therefore be a pointless waste of time and money to hold a Public Inquiry at this stage. It would also be a wholly unnecessary distraction when there are so many more important and urgent issues to grapple with.
Even at this late hour, SSE urges MAG to think again and agree to respect the UDC decision.
SSE launched Judicial Review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Transport in August 2018 arguing that the Stansted Airport planning application should be dealt with as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), in view of the scale of the project and its wider impacts upon climate change. A High Court ruling in February 2020 went against SSE and endorsed local determination. However, SSE still has the option to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. If UDC’s January 2020 refusal decision had been accepted by MAG, SSE would not have proceeded to the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately, MAG has announced its intention to appeal and so SSE will review its legal options. If the application could be dealt with as an NSIP, this would be less time-consuming and far less costly than the Public Inquiry process. The costs to UDC would be almost negligible, as opposed to it facing a bill of up to £1.7m for a Public Inquiry.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
- Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman, T 01799 520411; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: 01279 814961; (M) 07850 937143 email@example.com
- SSE Campaign Office: 01279 870558; firstname.lastname@example.org
Stansted airport said:
Stop Stansted Expansion ask MAG not to challenge Uttlesford DC’s decision to oppose expansion, saving public money to help with Covid recovery
Uttlesford District Council (UDC) refused the Stansted Airport planning application on 24 January this year. But the airport’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said an appeal was being considered. Legally, 6 months is allowed for a planning appeal and 3 months of that have now passed. An appeal would trigger a Public Inquiry which would mean that the final outcome might not be known for possibly another 18 months. Meanwhile UDC has felt it had to set aside £1.7 million to cover the potential costs of a Public Inquiry, and the risk of UDC being forced to pay MAG’s costs if MAG wins. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has asked MAG to show magnanimity in the current circumstances of the Covid pandemic, by announcing that it will respect the decision made by UDC in January, and not appeal. SSE say “it’s time to end the uncertainty … Now more than ever, MAG should respect the UDC decision.” SSE want the airport to withdraw its application for expansion to from 35mppa to 43 mppa. The £1.7million would be far better spent, by UDC, “to assist local businesses and local residents, including airport employees who have been laid off, during the virus crisis.”
Stansted passenger numbers continue to fall – indication that airport growth is not needed
Stansted Airport handled 1.9 million passengers in January, 30,000 fewer than the same month last year, making this its 7th consecutive month of decline. A number of reasons have been suggested for Stansted’s decline, including the non delivery of Boeing 737 Max aircraft to Ryanair, the collapse of Thomas Cook and now also the Coronavirus. However it is noteworthy that Stansted’s main competitor, London Luton Airport, achieved 6.8% growth in passenger numbers during the second half of 2019 whereas Stansted passenger numbers fell by 2.5%. Stop Stansted Expansion say these figures are all the more surprising in view of the many new routes which Stansted has announced in recent months, suggesting that many of its well-established routes have declined quite sharply. Stansted’s cargo business also continues to be in decline with the tonnage carried in January down by 20.2% compared to the same month last year. This follows a 9.6% decline in cargo tonnage in 2019. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “These latest Stansted Airport traffic figures provide further confirmation that there is no need to approve further expansion at Stansted for the foreseeable future.”
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.
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.
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.
New research shows no safe limit for PM2.5 which would hugely increase with expansion of airports, (eg. Stansted – or any other large airport)
New research published in the British Medical Journal on 30 November has shown that airborne emissions of fine carbon particles – known as PM2.5 – can have serious health impacts even when the level of concentration is below the World Health Organisation’s guideline limits for air pollution. PM2.5 emanates especially from fuel combustion and transport sources and is one of the major issues associated with airport expansion, not only because of the additional air pollution caused by the increased number of flights but also from the additional road traffic generated by the increase in passenger numbers travelling to and from the airport. There are links between PM2.5 and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as Parkinson’s and diabetes, and there are now others. The expansion of Stansted Airport is expected to hugely increase air pollution. Its own figures indicate the expansion to 43 mppa would lead to perhaps an extra 25% – 13.6 tonnes – of PM2.5 into the air that local residents, have to breathe. That is wholly unacceptable, knowing the severe health impacts upon the local population.