Uttlesford Council applies for judicial review of Stansted airport expansion plans

In May, the Planning Inspectorate (PI) approved plans by Stansted airport to expand its maximum number of annual passengers from 35 to 43 million. This had been opposed by Uttlesford Council, but the decision was challenged by the airport.  Now Uttlesford District Council  UDC) is trying to get this PI decision reversed, as it goes against the decision by a democratically elected council.  UDC submitted its application to the court for a JR one day before its submission deadline, and the UDC leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice. Local campaign, Stansted Airport Watch, had asked for a JR, so the decision is taken by the Secretary of State for Transport, not the PI. Since the PI decision, the government enshrined a new “Carbon Budget” into legislation. The Sixth Carbon Budget now aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, and for the first time, the carbon emissions of international aviation will be included in UK totals. That should mean the collective increases in carbon of all the airport expansion plans will have to be considered together, and none of the airports seeking expansion should be considered in isolation.


Update on the Stansted position, from Stansted Airport Watch


Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has now filed a JR application [Judicial Review  – see below] against the Secretary of State which seeks to challenge the recent lifting of the Stansted planning cap from 35mppa to 43mppa.

The UDC challenge is focused on climate change/carbon emissions and Stansted Airport Watch (SAW) will, of course, provide as much support as possible (despite past differences).  UDC is also challenging the award of Stansted Airport’s Public Inquiry costs against them. There was no costs award against SAW and so we will not engage on that particular issue.

UDC are keen to canvas as much support as possible in the hope of elevating the main issue at stake to the contradiction between the Government’s aviation policy and Government’s climate change policy.

It’s the view of UDC counsel (with which SAW agrees) that there is more chance of success if it can be demonstrated that this is not just about Stansted, but also about the expansion plans for Bristol, Southampton and Leeds Bradford airports, not to mention plans in the pipeline for the expansion of Heathrow (R3 supported by the ANPS), Gatwick and Luton (for which Scoping Reports have been submitted to PINS), and other UK airports. 

None of this sits comfortably with the Net Zero target or the recommendations of the CCC, and in less than four months the UK Government will be hosting COP26 and doubtless trying to lead by example in the global battle to try to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), recently rebranded Stansted Airport Watch (SAW), will fully support UDC’s JR application.  To keep our cost manageable and avoid the risk of an adverse costs award if the case is lost, we are not a Joint Claimant but rather an Interested Party.  We will be represented by a QC at the High Court hearing, assuming permission is granted for a JR.  We will seek to fill in any gaps in the UDC evidence and help UDC counter the evidence from the Secretary of State and Stansted Airport Limited. 

SAW is advised that it is possible that the Court may decide to combine the Stansted case with other similar airport expansion cases before the Court at that time.  That may include Southampton, Bristol and Leeds Bradford, depending on how matters develop over the next few months.  There is an expectation that Mr Justice Holgate will be given the case and SAW has been told that he is very capable of taking a wider view of the issues.

It must be in all of our interests if a wider, more strategic, view is taken.  It can be argued by any airport operator that no single airport application for expansion (except Heathrow R3) would have a material impact on the Government’s ability to deliver Net Zero.  That argument is however far more difficult to sustain where there are multiple applications.


Uttlesford council applies for court review of airport expansion plan

By Will Durrant (Saffron Walden reporter)

July 7, 2021
A last-ditch bid to block Stansted Airport expansion plans has been lodged with the High Court.

Uttlesford District Council wants to take a Planning Inspectorate ruling to judicial review to stop the airport from increasing its capacity by eight million passengers per year.

The council submitted its application to the court this week, just days before its submission deadline tomorrow (Thursday, July 8), according to a UDC spokesperson.

The Planning Inspectorate ruled in May that Stansted Airport could build nine new aircraft stands to accommodate a maximum 43 million passengers each year, up from a capacity of 35 million at the moment.

Council leader John Lodge said the decision to apply for Judicial Review was taken after seeking legal advice.

He said in June: “The reasons that the inspectors gave in their letters were not sufficiently clear to enable the residents of Uttlesford to understand why these particular decisions have been taken.”

Councillor John Lodge did not want to make a further comment.

Stansted Airport first submitted plans to expand in February 2018.

Campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion – now known as Stansted Airport Watch – asked for a judicial review of the submission which would have seen decision-making powers transferred from the council to the Secretary of State for Transport.

A planning judge threw out the challenge, leaving district councillors to refuse planning permission in 2020.

Manchester Airport Group then took its proposals to the Planning Inspectorate, which effectively gave the airport the green light for expansion.

The Planning Inspectorate ordered Uttlesford council to pay Stansted’s legal bill.

Council leaders hope the High Court can reverse these decisions.

Since the Planning Inspectorate made its decision, the government enshrined a new “Carbon Budget” into legislation.

The Sixth Carbon Budget, which came into force last month, aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

To do this, the UK’s share of international aviation will be included in carbon measuring to help the government achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emission by 2050.

The Planning Inspectorate invited the council, airport and Stansted Airport Watch to comment on anticipated changes to the carbon budget before it made a ruling, but said it only considered legislation in place at the time of the appeal.

In June, a spokesperson for the Inspectorate told this newspaper: “Inspectors are independent and impartial.

“When making a decision, inspectors give careful consideration to the evidence submitted at the time of the appeal taking account of current planning legislation, guidance and policy.”

The Inspectors’ letter said: “Having heard a significant amount of evidence on carbon and climate change during the Inquiry, the matters raised by the announcement did not necessitate reopening the Inquiry.”

Uttlesford District Council is yet to confirm the details of the application, and the High Court did not say whether it has received the application before publication.

Brian Ross, Chairman of Stansted Airport Watch, told this newspaper: “It is almost certain that SAW will be supporting Uttlesford District Council’s claims in the High Court, although we would want to carefully review the submission first.”

In 2019, Stansted Airport was the fourth-busiest UK airport in terms of ‘aircraft movement’ with 199,925 aircraft taking off or landing at the site in that year.

It is the East of England’s largest single-site employer, but during the pandemic, footfall dropped by 95 percent year-on-year from March 2020-21.

Freight movement increased by 53%.

The airport is vying for recovery after the pandemic.

When the government last reviewed its International Travel Lists, Charlie Cornish, the CEO of Stansted owners Manchester Airport Group, said certainty and transparency were “fundamental to the future of the sector”.

But some fear expanding airports for economic reasons could come at an environmental cost.

In May, The New Economics Foundation released a report which said proposals and paperwork for expansions at Stansted, Bristol, Leeds-Bradford and Southampton airports ignore up to £13.4 billion in environmental damage.



See earlier:


Uttlesford District Council leader calls for Government to intervene on Stansted Airport Expansion

The leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), Cllr John Lodge, has condemned the Planning Inspectorate’s (PI) decision to allow expansion at Stansted as “an insult to local democracy”.  He has written to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps and his Housing, Communities and Local Government counterpart Robert Jenrick and urged them to intervene. The application was rejected by UDC councillors, but the airport appealed – and the PI recently approved it – going against the democratic council vote.  John Lodge called on the Government to commit to “aviation demand management” to prevent the implementation of the planning permission at the airport, to raise the cap on annual passengers, from 35 to 43 million over the next 10 to 15 years. The PI considered the behaviour of the council to have been unreasonable, as officers had recommended approval.  The PI also said costs should be awarded against UDC. The decision to let the number of flights and passengers increase is completely contrary to government’s stated seriousness about cutting CO2 emissions. The owners of the airport, the Manchester Airports Group, are mainly councils. So money will be taken by one council, UDC (not a rich council), to be paid to other councils.

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Stansted wins appeal, against refusal by Uttlesford Council, of its plans to increase capacity to 43 million passengers per year

Expansion plans for Stansted Airport have been approved by the Planning Inspectorate (PI) after an appeal.  In January 2020 Uttlesford District Council (UDC) rejected proposals to increase Stansted’s passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million a year. However, the councillors voted against the advice of council officers, who had recommended approval of proposals. The council had originally approved the plan, in November 2018 but only by the casting vote of the chairman; many councillors then had not read, or properly understood, all the documents. Then after the Residents for Uttlesford group took control from the Conservatives in May 2019, the decision was referred back to the planning committee – the rejection decision. Stansted already had permission to increase capacity from 28 million to 35 million passengers per year.  The airport appealed against the decision, despite Covid and the near collapse of air travel in 2020.  A public inquiry was held in January to March 2021 by the Planning Inspectorate.  In its decision, the PI said:  “there would be a limited degree of harm arising in respect of air quality and carbon emissions” but that was “far outweighed by the benefits of the proposal”. UDC has also been ordered to pay the costs of Stansted’s appeal.

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