| THE THREAT
Where Are We Now?
Expansion on the Existing Runway
Second Runway Planning Application
Our Current Priorities
The Threat to Quality of Life Across the Region
Adding to the Climate Change Burden
An Environmental Catastrophe - It's Official
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
At the time of the May 2010 General Election, all three of the main political parties ruled out any additional runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. However, almost immediately after the election, the aviation industry launched an intensive lobbying campaign to persuade the media, the public and politicians that the UK faced an airport capacity crisis and that the UK would fall behind its global competitors unless more capacity was provided, particularly in London/the South East.
The industry campaign was successful. In September 2012 the Government buckled under the pressure and announced that it would set up an independent Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies to examine afresh the whole issue of UK airport capacity. More particularly, the Commission was asked to identify, and recommend to the Government, options for maintaining the UK's status as a global aviation hub.
SSE engaged fully with the Airports Commission from the outset and succeeded in keeping Stansted off the Commission's shortlist of new runway options. The Commission published its final report in July 2015 which recommended that Heathrow should have a new (third) runway and the Government finally accepted that recommendation in October 2016. However, SSE's job is far from complete. The Government, local politicians, the media and others need to be constantly reminded that that there is no justification for major expansion at Stansted.
Moreover, even without a second runway, Stansted Airport has the capacity to handle almost twice the present number of flights and to increase passenger numbers by about 20 million per annum.
RECENT HISTORY (2002 to 2017)
EXPANSION ON STANSTED'S SINGLE RUNWAY
In April 2006 BAA, the then owners of Stansted Airport, submitted a planning application asking the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council, to allow the airport to expand from an annual throughput of 25 million passengers to 35 million passengers per annum. This planning application was refused by Uttlesford District Council in November 2006 after deliberations lasting seven months and drawing an overwhelming number of objections from the community at large.
BAA appealed the decision and a public inquiry was held during the summer of 2007. Our Public Inquiry page gives more details of the process for this and the principal arguments against the proposals, set out in the evidence submitted by SSE.
In October 2008, following consideration of the Public Inquiry Inspector's report and additional representations, the Government announced approval for an increase in permitted passenger numbers from 25 to 35 million per annum and a rise in the permitted number of annual flight movements from 241,000 to 264,000.
SSE appealed the permission in a case heard at the High Court and also in the Court of Appeal but was unsuccessful.
While the case for major expansion at Stansted has always been built on a presumption of ever-increasing demand for air travel, the reality of the market actually shows falling numbers at the airport from 2007 until 2013, although there are now signs that demand is finally beginning to recover.
SECOND RUNWAY PLANNING APPLICATION
In March 2008 BAA, who still owned Stansted Airport at that time, submitted a planning application for a second runway. Astonishingly, this was five months before the Government had given its decision on whether BAA's earlier planning application for expansion to 35 million passengers per annum would be approved. Nevertheless, the Government raced ahead, immediately by-passing the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council, by announcing that the matter should be heard by Public Inquiry. An Inspector was appointed and given four assistant inspectors to help speed up the process. The Public Inquiry was scheduled to start in April 2009 and take just six months. However, against a background of SSE threatening legal action if the Inquiry was rushed, the Inspector extended his draft timetable to eighteen months.
Subsequently the Public Inquiry was postponed and then eventually cancelled because so much uncertainty had arisen, mainly due to the announcement by the Competition Commission in March 2009 that BAA was to be forced to sell Stansted Airport to address the airport monopoly situation in the South East. It also seemed fairly clear at that time that there would be a change of Government at the next General Election, which would need to be held by May 2010 at the latest, and that any new Government would be very unlikely to support plans for a second Stansted runway. And so it was that on 11 May 2010, five days after the General Election, the new Coalition Government announced that it would not support a second runway at Stansted. BAA withdrew its planning application thirteen days later.
Locally, the environmental impacts of a second runway would have been devastating. It would have meant the destruction of communities that have developed over centuries as well as vast swathes of unspoilt countryside and ancient woodlands and the loss of homes. The Airport's proposed land grab of almost 800 hectares for a second runway and related development would have created an airport site bigger than Heathrow.
Click here for more on the second runway application.
When BAA withdrew its second runway planning application in May 2010 - after an eight year battle - most people believed that the threat of a second runway at Stansted would not re-emerge for many years to come, if indeed it ever returned. However it took not much more than two years for the threat to re-emerge. In September 2012 the Government established the Airports Commission with the task of examining whether the UK needed new runway capacity and, if so, where this should be built.
In July 2013, Manchester Airport Group (MAG) which has bought Stansted just five months earlier (February 2013) submitted proposals to the Airports Commission for expanding Stansted with up to three additional runways to make it the UK's main hub airport, to replace Heathrow. Unsurprisingly, SSE fiercely contested the arguments put forward by MAG to the Commission in support of its plans.
In the course of 2013 SSE made nine separate evidence submissions to the Airports Commission and also took legal proceedings against the Commission in the High Court. All of this effort was rewarded when, in December 2013, the Commission published its interim report. This concluded that Stansted did not merit being shortlisted for an additional runway in the South East by 2030.
The Commission published its final report in July 2015 which recommended that Heathrow should have a new (third) runway and the Government finally accepted that recommendation in October 2016. However, SSE's job is far from complete. The Government, local politicians, the media and others need to be constantly reminded that that there is no justification for major expansion at Stansted.
OUR CURRENT PRIORITIES
* To ensure that the Government, local politicians, the media and others are constantly reminded that there is no justification for major expansion at Stansted.
* To persuade Stansted Airport to release some 270 local homes, bought in connection with its earlier major expansion plans, back into private ownership.
* To maintain pressure on Stansted Airport to minimise the day-to-day (and night-to-night) impact of its operations on the local community.
* Working with other airport community groups and environmental NGOs, to continue to press for action to tackle the growing impact of aviation on climate change, for example by lobbying for an end to the aviation industry's blanket exemption from fuel duty and VAT.
THE THREAT TO QUALITY OF LIFE ACROSS THE REGION
Expanding Stansted beyond its existing single runway would make life intolerable for many tens of thousands of local residents across large parts of Essex, Herts, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire:
* Noise from more and more aircraft flying overhead would affect vast swathes of the region.
* Night flights would inevitably increase.
* Children at local schools would suffer ever more frequent interruptions to their learning - 'jet pauses' - as planes pass overhead.
* Many people currently unaffected by aircraft noise could find themselves suddenly blighted by additional flights and new flight paths.
* The pressure on the road and rail network from millions of extra passengers travelling to and from the airport would make our roads and rail services intolerably congested.
* Local air quality would be adversely have affected, both from additional aircraft and from road traffic, with implications for human health and ancient woodlands such as Hatfield Forest.
* Development pressures to serve an airport bigger than today's Heathrow would radically alter the character of the region and put pressure on all forms of infrastructure, particularly housing, schools, healthcare and transport.
* The cumulative effect of all these impacts would have been a dramatic deterioration in the quality of life for tens of thousands of local people.
ADDING TO THE CLIMATE CHANGE BURDEN
According to Stansted Airport's own estimates, a second runway would have increased its cabon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 9.2 million tonnes, even before allowing for the radiative forcing impact of aviation CO2 emissions, for which experts suggest a multiplier of between 2x and 4x to reflect the greater climate change impact of CO2 emissions at high altitude and the impact of non-CO2 emissions from aircraft engines. See the SSE Climate Change page.
AN ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE - IT'S OFFICIAL
Two Stansted Public Inquiries and a Royal Commission in the course of the last 30 years have ruled against Stansted expanding beyond a single runway, most recently in the 1980s when it was judged that a second runway at Stansted, in any position or location, would be an "environmental catastrophe". The words of the Inspector, Graham Eyre QC (later Sir Graham Eyre) were as follows:
"I would not be debasing the currency if I express my judgement that the development of an airport at Stansted, with a capacity in excess of 25mppa and requiring the construction and operation of a second runway and all the structural and operational paraphernalia of a modern international airport as we know the animal in 1984, would constitute nothing less than a catastrophe in environmental terms."
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