| Press Release - 9 October 2008
"PREDICTABLE, CYNICAL AND UNJUSTIFIED"
SSE response to Government's approval for an extra 10 million passengers a year at Stansted
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has described today's decision by the Government to approve an increase in Stansted's permitted passenger throughput from 25 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 35mppa as entirely predictable, cynical and unjustified.
However, the campaign group is warning BAA and its Spanish owners Ferrovial not to assume the matter is settled since initial readings of the Inspector's report and Government decision letter indicate that there may well be scope for legal challenge. SSE has already referred the matter to its legal advisors.
The decision has taken a year to emerge from Whitehall following a Public Inquiry held between May and October 2007 to consider BAA's appeal against a refusal from the local planning authority for intensifying the use of the Stansted runway. Since then, BAA has submitted another planning application, this time for a second runway at Stansted which would make the airport bigger than Heathrow.
Commenting on the decision, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: "Given the Government's gung ho approach to airport expansion, we always knew that the dice were loaded in favour of BAA, not least since the Government wouldn't want to see the policies set down in its Air Transport White Paper fall at the first hurdle. Nevertheless, it beggars belief that there has been such a cynical disregard for the evidence presented to last year's Inquiry. BAA failed to bring forward any direct evidence even to support an economic case for its application. Today's decision is wholly unjustified on the basis of the evidence."
"However," he added, "the Government's determination to approve this application could prove be its undoing. The flaws in the process and the rationale given by the Government in reaching its decision may well provide scope for challenge. That is why we are seeking advice from our legal advisors. We have six weeks to decide whether to appeal."
Apart from the cynical manner in which the Government has approved the extra 10mppa, there is enormous cynicism in the decision itself. Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and yet the Government claims global leadership in combating climate change. "This exposes the Government's climate change rhetoric as entirely hollow," said Mr Sanders.
There is one piece of good news for local residents in the conditions imposed upon BAA as part of the approval. The Inspector has taken on board SSE's recommendation for a reduction in the number of 'non commercial' flights at Stansted. Last year there were a staggering 17,000 such flights mostly involving noisy business jets and the repositioning of aircraft at night. A limit of 10,000 will apply in future.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1) Background: The decision to allow an additional 10mppa at Stansted comes 2½ years after BAA submitted a planning application to the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council, (UDC) for unlimited passenger throughput on the existing runway. UDC refused the application in November 2006 leading to the setting up of a Public Inquiry which sat from May to October 2008. Just prior to the start of the Inquiry BAA changed its position and offered to accept a 35mppa limit.
2) Documents: Today's decision was made jointly by the Secretary of State for Transport (Geoff Hoon) and the Secretary of State for Communities (Hazel Blears). The decision letter and Inspector's Report are available for download at www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/airports/decisionletters/stansted.
3) Second runway proposal: BAA submitted another (much bigger) planning application in March 2008 for a second runway at Stansted. A Public Inquiry is due to start in April 2009 to consider this. The Inquiry is expected to take at least 12 months and it is estimated that it will take a further 6-9 months for the Inspector to submit his report to the Government. A final decision is not likely to be made until 2011 or even 2012.
4) Current level of business: Passenger traffic at Stansted continues to fall sharply. The airport is likely to handle about 22.4m passengers this year compared to 23.8m passengers last year - a 6 per cent fall. It therefore seems unlikely that increasing its permitted throughput from 25mppa to 35mppa will make any difference in the short term. Indeed, with the recent dramatic deterioration in the economic situation - both domestically and internationally - we are entering uncharted territory with regard to the future demand for air travel.
Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE: M 0777 552 3091, firstname.lastname@example.org