| Press Release - 27 April 2010
COUNCIL WANTS TO BREAK ITS OWN RULES TO HELP BAA'S FINANCIAL PLIGHT
Uttlesford District Council (UDC) planning officials are recommending that Councillors approve a BAA planning application to allow it - for the first time ever - to rent Stansted Airport warehousing space to non airport-related tenants. The application is due to be decided by UDC's Development Control Committee next Wednesday (5 May).
Officials are recommending approval following a plea by BAA that, despite strenuous efforts, it has been unable to find airport-related tenants for a 60,000 sq foot warehousing development which it built on the airport site two years ago. As a consequence, BAA is losing potential rental income of some £400,000 a year. BAA has asked for a lifting of the 'airport-related' planning restriction for seven years so that it is free to rent the airport warehouses on the wider local market.
Council officials admit that the recommendation to approve is contrary to its own longstanding planning policy which states that industrial and commercial development unrelated to the airport will not be permitted on the site. This has been UDC's firm policy since 1985 and, if the BAA application were to be approved, it would mark a fundamental departure from that policy.
Objections to the BAA planning application have been lodged by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) and by almost all the local Parish Councils including Takeley, Stansted Mountfitchet, Birchanger, Great Hallingbury, Hatfield Broad Oak, Great Canfield, Elsenham, Great Easton and Tilty and Broxted. A number of individual objections have also been lodged.
SSE has also provided evidence to the Council showing that the downturn in the local commercial property market is not unique to Stansted Airport. Similar warehousing units are lying vacant in Bishop's Stortford, Stansted Mountfitchet, Great Dunmow and Saffron Walden. If BAA is allowed to compete in the open market, it will make it even more difficult for other local commercial landlords to find tenants.
The fact that there is already a local surplus of this type of commercial premises is also evidenced by the planning application for a new Sainsbury's superstore in Saffron Walden. This is on a site which was given planning approval for 60,000 sq feet of commercial warehousing space in 2007. However, since then, there has been minimal interest from potential tenants; hence the change of plans to a proposed supermarket development.
One of the main concerns of the local Parish Councils is the risk of giving encouragement to developers with more ambitious plans for the airport site. Proposals for an airport business park - and even for a 'Business City' - have been around for some time. Developers will obviously be encouraged if they see that UDC is prepared to disregard its own longstanding policy of only allowing airport-related businesses to operate from the airport site.
Many objectors have also highlighted the fundamental unfairness of BAA being allowed to rent airport warehousing space to the open market. This is because BAA is able to acquire airport land cheaply through compulsory purchase and is therefore in a position to undercut other local commercial landlords.
Another element of unfairness exists in relation to car parking whereby UDC gives Stansted a car parking monopoly by refusing to grant planning permission for airport-related car parking to anyone other than BAA. The Council vigorously enforces this policy, including through legal proceedings against any local car parking operator who attempts to defy this policy. If BAA is allowed to offer airport warehousing space in the open market, UDC will almost certainly come under pressure from local farmers and other landowners to end BAA's car parking monopoly.
SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, commented: "For years UDC's officials have been telling us that all planning applications must be decided in accordance with its planning policies. Now, when BAA complains about losing £400,000 a year rental income, officers want to break their own rules. We can only hope that our Councillors have better judgement and will throw out this application which would be to the detriment of local residents and local businesses. Moreover, it is fraught with all sorts of long term risks and dangers."
NOTE TO EDITORS
The latest papers published by Uttlesford District Council on the application (reference UTT/0372/10/FUL) for consideration at the Development Control Committee meeting on Wednesday 5 May are accessible here.
Original response by SSE to Uttlesford District Council (30 March 2010)
Supplementary response by SSE to Uttlesford District Council (20 April 2010)
Further response by SSE to Uttlesford District Council (4 May 2010)
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
Carol Barbone, Campaign Director, SSE: M 0777 552 3091 & firstname.lastname@example.org