| 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 last general election, in May 2010, 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 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 has engaged fully with the Commission from the outset and will continue to engage fully with the Commission until it completes its work in June 2015. SSE has so far been successful in keeping Stansted off the Commission's shortlist of new runway options but SSE's job is far from complete. We need to continue providing evidence to the Airports Commission with a view to persuading the Commission that there is no justification for major expansion at Stansted.
In the meantime we cannot relax our guard. The Commission has so far concluded that the South East needs one additional runway by 2030. Its final report, in June 2015, could recommend a second additional runway for the South East, to be built between 2030 and 2050, and Stansted might be one of its recommendations in this respect.
The Commission is only an advisory body and, whilst its recommendations should carry considerable weight, it will ultimately be for the Government of the day to decide which of Londonís airports should be expanded. As we have learned from bitter experience, Stansted has often in the past been viewed by politicians as the soft, easy option for major expansion.
Even without a second runway, there is scope to double the number of flights and number of passengers currently handled by Stansted Airport, which presently operates at just about half of its capacity.
RECENT HISTORY (2002 to 2014)
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 Statements of Case 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.
SSE has engaged fully with the Commission from the outset and will continue to engage fully until the Commission completes its work in June 2015. SSE has so far been successful in keeping Stansted off the Commission's shortlist of new runway options but our job is far from complete. We need to continue providing evidence to the Airports Commission with a view to persuading them that there is no justification for major expansion at Stansted.
OUR CURRENT PRIORITIES
* To keep Stansted off the Airports Commission's shortlist for a second runway, not only in the period to 2030 but also in the period to 2050 - i.e. the entirety of the Airports Commission's planning horizon.
* 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.
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.
In July 2002 the Department of Transport published proposals for consultation which included building three new runways at Stansted - later modified to give policy support to the construction of one extra runway in the Air Transport White Paper in late 2003.
Stop Stansted Expansion was formed within a matter of days following the publication of the 2002 consultation and since that time has mounted a relentless campaign with support from thousands of individuals, hundreds of councils and a score of UK and European Parliamentarians all recognising the devastating impacts which expansion would have. Uttlesford District Council, the planning authority for the airport, conducted its own referendum in 2002 in which 89% of voters said "NO" to any further runways at Stansted. The turnout of 69% of the local electorate was a bigger showing than in any recent General Election.
Environmental groups including the National Trust, Woodland Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings and Campaign to Protect Rural England and others are also vehemently opposed to the plans.
This is because the impacts of a two-runway airport handling up to 68 million passengers a year in its inital phase and with the capacity to eventually handle more than 90 million passengers a year would be enormous - across the region and beyond. The withdrawal of the second runway application therefore came as a tremendous relief, even if work remains to be done to secure the future.
For example, plans for expansion on the existing runway - the subject of a Public Inquiry in 2007 - could lead to a doubling of current passenger numbers within the permission granted in 2008 for Stansted to handle 35 million passengers a year.
ADDING TO THE CLIMATE CHANGE BURDEN
In global terms, the climate change impacts of further expansion would have increased current carbon dioxide emissions from Stansted airport from 2.89 million tonnes a year (as at 2014) to 12 million tonnes with full use of the existing runway and to 23 million tonnes annually from a two-runway airport based on projections provided by Stansted Airport for its second runway planning application in 2008.
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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