| CAMPAIGN UPDATE - AT A GLANCE
A summary of current events in SSE's campaign against expansion of Stansted Airport
and other recent news related to the expansion of airports and aviation - 27 November 2018
"Shameful" decision by UDC over Stansted expansion
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has accused Uttlesford District Council's Planning Committee of betraying the local community by granting planning permission to the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to expand Stansted Airport to a throughput of 43 million passengers per annum. SSE has described as "shameful" the Council's decision to approve the application by the casting vote of the Chairman, not least because it subsequently emerged that the Chairman did not even know what he was voting for (see below). If allowed to stand, the effect of UDC's decision to approve the planning application will be a 44% increase in the number of flights and a 66% increase in passenger numbers, compared to last year. It would also increase Stansted Airport's carbon emissions - the main contributor to global warming - by an average of more than a million tons a year, and cause gridlock on the M11 and local roads.
Decision day was a farce
SSE has described the vote by UDC's Planning Committee as not only shameful but also farcical. The ten elected local councillors who sit on the Uttlesford Planning Committee were split down the middle with five opposing the application and five (all Conservatives), including chairman Councillor Alan Mills, in favour. Cllr Mills then used his casting vote to push through the decision in favour of expansion. However, it has since emerged that Councillor Mills was confused about the number of additional flights that would result from the proposed expansion and had not read - or had ignored - new Noise Guidelines from the World Health Organisation on the impact that aircraft noise can have on the health of local communities.
In correspondence between Councillor Mills and SSE's health adviser, Professor Jangu Banatvala, over the WHO Noise Guidelines, it emerged that Councillor Mills believed the application was for 174,000 flights, rather than 274,000. He admitted he had only read about a third of the planning documentation but even a cursory read would have indicated the true scale and impact of the expansion.
Councillor Mills also said he was unaware of the WHO document even though it had been presented to him and members of the planning committee in person by Professor Banatvala a week previously. Despite the fact that UDC's planning officers told MAG that the new WHO Noise Guidelines must be assessed before the planning application was considered, the officers and the Planning Committee completely disregarded them. SSE's monitoring of the Planning Committee meeting also showed that of the four other Conservative councillors who supported the airport's planning application, two asked not a single relevant question and the other two appeared not to have understood even the most basic information about the nature and effect of the planning application. On the day of the vote, the council chamber was packed with members of the public and representatives of Parish Councils, all of whom opposed the airport expansion proposals. See the SSE Press Release.
Government must "call in" planning application
In the wake of the farcical UDC Planning Committee meeting, SSE is reinforcing its efforts to persuade the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to take the decision out of the hands of Uttlesford District Council. The Secretary of State has instructed UDC not to issue a decision notice until he has had an opportunity to consider whether the application should be called in and reconsidered at national level. SSE Deputy Chairman Brian Ross says, "For almost 18 months SSE has consistently argued that this airport application had to be dealt with nationally because of its scale and complexity. It was completely unfair to place the responsibility on local councillors and this has now left some of them exposed to ridicule. It took a five-month Public Inquiry to consider the evidence in the case of the last comparable Stansted Airport planning application. On this occasion Uttlesford Planning Committee did the entire job in one sitting. That might appear to reflect a remarkable improvement in efficiency. In truth, it reflects the naïve and superficial nature of the Uttlesford approval process."
SSE will be sending a written transcript of the audio recording of the UDC Planning Committee meeting on 14 November to James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as supporting evidence of the superficial and uninformed nature of the Planning Committee process and of apparent pre-determination. SSE has already sent the Secretary of State a holding submission and SSE's barristers are now working on detailed legal submissions to the Secretary of State underpinning the reasons why he must now "call in" the application for national determination. "Fortunately, this is not the end of the road so we would advise Stansted Airport not to start popping the champagne corks just yet," said SSE Deputy Chairman, Brian Ross. See the SSE Press Release.
SSE sets the record straight - again
Prior to the farcical planning meeting reported above, SSE exposed discussions between UDC's planning officers and senior UDC leaders about concessions that might be extracted from MAG in return for approving the application. SSE also criticised the planners for not challenging unsubstantiated and misleading claims made in the planning application and for claiming that no significant adverse environmental effects were predicted as a result of the proposed expansion. SSE exposed "a desperate attempt" by the airport's spin doctors to distort facts about public support for expansion. SSE revealed that despite badgering by airport management, only 900 out of 12,000 airport employees submitted computer-generated letters supporting expansion and only 16 members of the public sent support letters to UDC. In contrast, UDC received 934 individually-written letters and emails opposing expansion. Now the airport has hired three more spin doctors "to deliver a step change in people's perceptions of Stansted". New additions to the corporate affairs team come with backgrounds that include the Department of Transport, lobbying and reputation management, and Fire and Rescue. See the PR Week report.
Third Heathrow runway may not be enough
The Government is already looking to see which other UK airport might need to be allowed a new runway - even before work on Heathrow's new runway has begun. Forecasts for aviation growth were "already looking quite out of date", according to Sarah Bishop, Deputy Director of aviation policy in the Department for Transport, in a speech to a Transport Conference attended by SSE. She said that on present trends the south-east of England could need another new runway by 2050 in addition to the third runway at Heathrow. See the Financial Times report.
Regulator challenges Heathrow over third runway costs
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has threatened Heathrow Airport with enforcement action to compel it to provide clear evidence about how it would finance the £14 billion new runway while avoiding pushing up costs for airlines and passengers, The Times reported. The CAA told Heathrow to address major doubts over the runway "decisively and urgently" to get the project on track. The regulator also revealed that the project had been hit by a further delay, with a public consultation on detailed plans for the new runway now scheduled for June rather than in the first three months of next year. Heathrow cut £2.5 billion off the costs by pledging to build a smaller terminal and phase the project over several years. It insisted that the move would allow it to keep landing charges close to present levels, a key demand of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Last month the High Court gave permission for five legal challenges to be brought against the government decision, with a hearing to take place in March. See the Travel Weekly report.
UK to raise passenger tax on long-haul flights
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced in the Budget another increase in Air Passenger Duty (APD) on the same day that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling emphasised how important airports are to the UK's future prosperity. Mr Hammond said that APD on long-haul flights from UK airports would increase in line with inflation. This will mean an increase of £2 to £80 for economy travellers, while premium cabin passengers on long haul flights will see APD rise £4 to £176. The new rates take effect from April 2020. APD for short-haul flights will be frozen. APD generates about £3.5 billion a year for the Exchequer and is intended to compensate - to some extent - for the fact that air travel is totally exempt from fuel duty and VAT. Meanwhile Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the Airport Operators Association: "We will... continue to seek new and improved bilateral Air Services Agreements with the rest of the world. Aiming, as we always have, to improve connectivity, choice and value for money for businesses and consumers... It has never been more important to demonstrate that Britain is open to the world." The Government says Brexit will give it freedom to strike trade deals around the world and has been stressing that the UK is "open for business". The rise in APD was met with derision from the airline industry, reported Air Transport World.
Plan for "no deal" Brexit, says IATA
In the event of a "no deal" Brexit, the UK and the European Union must take urgent action to plan for the continuation of air services, according to International Air Transport Association. "A backstop contingency plan to keep planes flying after March must be published, and quickly," said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac, referring to the UK's likely end-March departure from the bloc. Even in the "best-case scenario", where a Brexit transition phase is agreed for the period after March 2019, "a high degree of uncertainty" and "risk" to air services remains, IATA says. Regarding a no-deal scenario, IATA cites the uninterrupted continuation of air connectivity, the safety and security regulatory framework, and the policies and processes needed for efficient border management as three key areas where it says insufficient steps have been taken. See the Flight Global report.
Istanbul set to be world's busiest airport
Istanbul Airport, which has just been officially opened, will be capable of handling 90 million passengers a year by 2021, with further expansion leading to a total capacity of up to 200 million. That would be almost double the capacity of the world's busiest airport last year, Atlanta. See the BBC News report.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Airport steals Gatwick's crown
For many years, Gatwick has claimed to be the world's busiest single runway airport but that accolade now belongs to India's Mumbai Airport which recently broke its own record by handling over 1,000 flights in a single day. Last year Mumbai handled 48.0 million passengers compared to Gatwick's 45.5 million. See the Business Standard report.
Carry on at a price
Passengers flying with Stansted's largest airline will have to pay to take anything more than a small bag on board. Only those paying £6 for priority boarding on Ryanair flights will be able to take a suitcase up to 10kg in the cabin. Like most airlines, Ryanair's Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 lack overhead locker space. See the BBC News report.
Busiest October at Stansted
London Stansted says over 2.5 million passengers used the airport in October, an increase of 8.8 per cent on last year. Its busiest ever October, helped by the start of the half-term holidays and the final weeks of the airlines' summer timetable, saw an additional 205,000 passengers compared with October 2017. The 12-month rolling total stands at over 27.6 million passengers, up 7 per cent on the previous year. See the Stansted Airport report.
Protests at Gatwick expansion plans
Campaigners described plans by Gatwick Airport to use the emergency runway as a second runway in order to increase capacity as "totally underhand". It could mean an extra 231 flights taking off each day, said CAGNE (Communities against Gatwick Noise and Emissions) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England has declared a "state of emergency" over the new Gatwick Airport Master Plan. Figures show a second runway created from Gatwick's existing emergency runway would result in an estimated 14 million extra passengers travelling through the West Sussex airport every year. Gatwick predicts that, with a second runway, it could handle up to 70 million passengers by 2032. See the Kent Online report and also The Argus report.
Southend Airport in the red
Stobart Group, owner of Southend Airport, saw earnings from its aviation interests fall into the red in the first half of the year. In addition to the airport, Stobart Group's aviation arm also runs regional carrier Stobart Aviation and a ground handling business. Aviation division earnings for the six months to August 30 dropped to a loss of £2.7 million from a £3.6 million profit in the same period last year. The airport is now being primed for "substantial growth" in 2019 as part of a target of five million passengers a year by 2022. EasyJet's basing of a fourth aircraft at the airport is expected to result in more than one million easyJet passengers this year. Ryanair's move to base three aircraft at Southend airport in a five-year deal is expected to bring a further one million passengers a year from summer 2019. See the Travel Weekly report.
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