Stansted Public Inquiry – MAG challenging Uttlesford’s refusal – has ended. Inspectors’ decision by June?

The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry to consider plans for further airport expansion (from 35 to 43 mpps) came to a close on Friday 12 March after 8 weeks of evidence hearings and cross-examinations.  QCs for the 3 main parties – Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) – presented their closing submissions at the end of last week.  It will now be for the Panel of 3 Inspectors to decide whether to approve the airport expansion proposals.  A decision is expected in around 3 months (June?).  UDC’s Planning Committee had voted 10-0 to refuse permission, though officers had recommended acceptance. SSE says the Inquiry might not have been necessary if UDC had supported SSE’s call, 3 years ago, for the Secretary of State for Transport to deal with the Stansted Airport Planning Application nationally.  Instead, UDC insisted on dealing with the application itself, despite its limited resources and expertise in this area.  During the inquiry, most of the legal attack by MAG was against the detailed evidence produced by SSE, as UDC did not present much.
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THE STANSTED AIRPORT PUBLIC INQUIRY COMES TO AN END – NOW WE MUST WAIT 

PRESS RELEASE – by Stop Stansted Expansion

15 MARCH 2021

The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry to consider plans for further airport expansion came to a close on Friday 12 March after eight weeks of evidence hearings and cross-examinations.

QCs for the three main parties – Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) – presented their closing submissions at the end of last week.  It will now be for the Panel of three Inspectors to decide whether to approve the airport expansion proposals.  A decision is expected in around three months.   

On the very first day, UDC’s barrister, instructed by UDC’s officers, declared that MAG’s proposals were acceptable, subject only to certain conditions which, in SSE’s view, were so timid as to render them almost meaningless. It was an extraordinary start to UDC’s defence of the decision made by its Planning Committee in January 2020, by a margin of 10 votes to nil, to refuse permission for the Stansted Airport expansion proposals. There was no attempt whatsoever by UDC to mount a robust defence of the decision of its own Planning Committee.

MAG has made it clear that, if it wins its case, it will seek an award of costs against UDC but not against SSE. Costs at a Public Inquiry can only be awarded in the event of “unreasonable behaviour” and MAG claims that UDC behaved unreasonably in defending the appeal.

This Inquiry might not have been necessary if UDC had supported SSE’s call, three years ago, for the Secretary of State for Transport to deal with the Stansted Airport Planning Application nationally.  Instead, UDC insisted on dealing with the application itself, despite its limited resources and expertise in this area. 

UDC submitted evidence to the Inquiry on just 4 topics and for each topic it concluded that MAG’s proposals were acceptable subject to conditions.  By contrast, SSE’s team of specialists, supported by external expert consultants and two of the country’s top planning barristers, presented comprehensive evidence to the Inquiry on 11 separate topics. The result was that MAG directed most of its firepower at trying to counter the SSE evidence, rather than UDC’s evidence, such as it was.   

SSE chairman, Peter Sanders commented “I am immensely proud of SSE’s Inquiry team.  We all realise, of course, that this is a David and Goliath battle, but it is important to remember that it was David who won that battle, and he did so by giving it his best shot. That is exactly what SSE has done on this occasion.  We must now wait to see whether the powerful evidence that we have submitted will be enough to win the day.”

ENDS    

NOTES 

  • MAG seeks permission for Stansted to be allowed to handle 43 million passengers per annum (mppa). Stansted currently has permission for 35mppa and in 2019 handled 28mppa.  Over the past 12 months, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Stansted has handled only 3 million passengers.
  • A full record of the Public Inquiry, including (until April 12) a video record of all the hearings, can be found at https://programmeofficers.co.uk/ssairport/ and a selection of the most relevant Inquiry documents is also available at https://stopstanstedexpansion.com/library/information-centre/

 

FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT


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See earlier:

Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January

After over 3 years of fierce resistance by the local community, the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport will be decided by a Public Inquiry which opens on Tuesday 12th January.   The outcome will determine whether Uttlesford, East Herts, and other surrounding districts will continue to consist of largely rural communities or will, in time, become further blighted and urbanised in the same way as large areas around Gatwick and Heathrow airports.  Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) considers it entirely irrational, and potentially dangerous, for the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to insist that the Public Inquiry must start at the height of the Covid pandemic.  Stansted already has permission for 35 million passengers and its passenger throughput peaked at 28 million in 2018, with passenger numbers in decline since mid-2019, long before the pandemic. It is applying to expand to 43mppa.  In 2020, Stansted handled just 7 million passengers and has forecast that it will take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. Plainly, there is no urgency to increase the current planning cap.

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Stansted airport inquiry to start in the midst of the Covid pandemic

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has described the decision to schedule a January start for the Public Inquiry into further expansion at Stansted Airport as “dangerous, unwise and unnecessary” in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that it could jeopardise community involvement in the hearings.  The public inquiry is being held following an appeal by Stansted’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to allow expansion of the airport to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers, compared to 28 million last year. The refusal, by the UDC Planning Committee, was by a resounding margin of 10 votes to nil.  SSE believes that a three-month deferral would be a safer and more sensible way forward, not least given the major impacts which the pandemic is having on the aviation industry. Stansted will handle fewer than 9 million passengers this year, one third of last year’s total. Experts say it will take five years before passenger numbers return to 2019 levels – if it ever does. Despite strong objections from SSE, the start date has been set for 12 January 2021. It is planned to be an in-person event, with attendant Covid infection risks, and SSE says it should be done by using video technology, but this has limitations on effective public participation and access.

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SSE RENEWS CALL FOR STANSTED AIRPORT TO ACCEPT PLANNING REFUSAL

STOP STANSTED EXPANSION 

PRESS RELEASE – 29th JULY 2020 

In an email sent on 28th July, Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) congratulated Steve Griffiths on his appointment as Managing Director of Stansted Airport, but urged him to listen to the local community and to reconsider the Airport’s proposed appeal against the unanimous rejection of its planning application by Uttlesford District Council.

In the email SSE’s Chairman, Peter Sanders, said an appeal would be costly and time-consuming for all parties at a time when they are hard pressed by other important issues.

https://stopstanstedexpansion.com/press-releases/sse-renews-call-for-airport-to-accept-planning-refusal/


MAG to appeal council’s refusal of Stansted expansion proposals – SSE says this is “CALLOUS, CYNICAL AND POINTLESS”

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has decided to appeal against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council of the expansion plans of Stansted airport. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman, Peter Sanders, said this was “callous, cynical and pointless” and prolongs uncertainty. MAG has been seeking an increase in the permitted number of flights using Stansted, up from the present limit of 35 mppa to 43mppa.  Stansted’s actual throughput in 2019 was 28 mppa and will be very significantly lower in 2020 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 10 votes to zero to refuse the application. MAG itself had said it wanted the application to be determined locally rather than nationally, and that UDC was the “competent and appropriate authority” to deal with its application. But now it is appealing, for the decision to go to a Public Inquiry, that would be costly for UDC at a time when finances are struggling.

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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.”

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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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