Stop Stansted Expansion to be renamed Stansted Airport Watch
Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the AGM. SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes, as it being very unlikely Stansted will be expanding capacity for many years to come. Due to Covid, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed. And so it makes sense to change the name, as much of the group’s work has been on issues of noise, flight paths, aviation policy, taxation, carbon emissions, compensation – generally trying to reduce the harm done by the airpot – not only expansion. Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year’s AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. He will probably be replaced by Brian Ross, who has long been Deputy Chairman.
Stop Stansted Expansion to be succeeded by Stansted Airport Watch
From Stop Stansted Expansion – now called Stansted Airport Watch
Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the annual general meeting (AGM) of SSE’s parent organisation next month. [Notes 1 and 2]
SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes as follows:
“Regardless of the outcome of the recent Public Inquiry, it is very unlikely that Stansted will apply for any further increase in its capacity for many years to come. As a result of Covid-19, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed.”
In the 12 months to 31 March, Stansted handled just 3 million passengers compared to 28 million in 2019, before air travel was decimated by the pandemic.
In addition to the expected long-term impact of Covid-19 on air travel, there is growing recognition that the UK will not be able to meet its statutory target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 unless aviation emissions are brought under much tighter control. This almost certainly means that aviation growth, at Stansted and elsewhere, will need to be constrained.
Peter Sanders continued: “In the current circumstances it’s questionable whether ‘Stop Stansted Expansion’ continues to be an appropriate name for our campaign. It’s also important to note that, over the years, SSE has done far more than just dealing with the threat of expansion, for example, campaigning on night flights, on changes to flight paths, on aviation policy and taxation, on climate change, on the phasing out of noisier aircraft, on homeowner mitigation and compensation, and far more besides.”
All of that work will continue to be necessary, and the view of the SSE committee is that this is the right time to re-focus the campaign on the task ahead. Rather than having to oppose expansion proposals, the need will be to ensure that the airport’s authorised operations cause as little harm as possible and, wherever possible, are managed so as to reduce harm.
A further reason for the new organisation is to help bring about a changing of the guard within SSE. Most of the current members of the SSE committee have been in place since the campaign group was established in 2002. If there were to be another threat of airport expansion in, say, ten years’ time, the current team would not be the best people to handle that challenge. The current hiatus, caused by Covid-19, provides an opportunity to start passing the baton to the next generation, allowing new blood to learn and gain experience of dealing with the key issues.
Peter Sanders concluded: “SSE has notched up some considerable successes since it was established in 2002 but now is exactly the right time to refocus and rejuvenate the campaign for the longer term. I have no doubt that Stansted Airport Watch – SAW – will be every bit as effective as SSE and, as its name implies, will be ever-vigilant in seeking to minimise the negative impacts of the airport upon the local community and the environment.”
Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year’s AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. [Note 3.]
- SSE was formed in 2002 as a working group of the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association (NWEEHPA) and that continues to be the position today. It is intended to change the name of NWEEHPA to Stansted Airport Watch. SSE would not actually be disbanded but would instead become dormant unless and until needed again.
- The proposed changes are subject to approval at the NWEEHPA AGM on 26 May at the Silver Jubilee Hall, Takeley, starting at 8pm. All SSE members are entitled to attend and vote.
- SSE’s Deputy Chairman, Brian Ross, has indicated his willingness to stand as Chairman of Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) for the coming year. If he is elected, this would help to provide continuity during the transition.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
- Peter Sanders, SSE Chairman, T 01799 520411; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brian Ross, Deputy Chairman: 01279 814961; (M) 07850 937143 email@example.com
- SSE Campaign Office: 01279 870558; firstname.lastname@example.org
SSE press release
The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry comes to an end – now we must wait
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.”
- 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