| 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 - July 2018
Stansted Airport planning application grinds to a standstill
The joint attempt by Stansted's owners, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to rush through the current Stansted Airport planning application and have it all 'done and dusted' by July 18th has come spectacularly unstuck because the Council has finally now realised that it needs MAG to provide a great deal more information before the planning application can even be sensibly considered. No new target date has yet been set for determining the application but it is unlikely to be before October. UDC has said that it will not set a new decision date without more information on surface access, noise and air quality.
From the outset, SSE has fiercely opposed the attempt to rush through the application and has campaigned relentlessly for more information to be provided on the impacts of the proposal which would see a 44% increase in flights and a 66% increase in passengers compared to last year's levels. More fundamentally, SSE has also been pressing for the planning application to be dealt with by the Secretary of State as a nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and not by the local council. SSE has vowed to seek a High Court ruling if the responsibility for determining the planning application is not transferred from UDC to the Secretary of State. See the Dunmow Broadcast report.
UDC challenges SSE claims over airport's planning influence
UDC has gone on the defensive over allegations by SSE that the wording of UDC's proposed policy on Stansted Airport in the new Local Plan was written by MAG and that council officers "bent over backwards" to help them. SSE's Brian Ross was given the opportunity to address the Council and told Councillors "This proposed new wording not only opens the door to the current airport planning application, it lays out the red carpet. And it provides an open invitation for unfettered expansion of Stansted Airport in the future." UDC initially denied that it had adopted MAG's wording for the new policy but SSE was able to produce the notes of a meeting held between MAG and UDC planning officers on 11 December 2017, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, at which MAG suggested new wording for the Council's Stansted Airport policy. This was almost identical to the wording adopted by UDC. However, following SSE's revelation, Councillors over-ruled the new wording recommended by their officers and decided to revert back to virtually the same wording as had previously existed. See the SSE Press Release.
Heathrow third runway will slow Stansted's ambitions
At the end of June, the Government finally obtained Parliament's support for a third Heathrow runway. Despite strong opposition from local constituency MPs, the House of Commons voted by 415 votes to 119 in favour. Heathrow Airport claims there will be 'spades in the ground' by 2021 and 'planes in the air' by 2026. SSE said that while its sympathies lay with the communities around Heathrow that would be affected, there was local relief that the decision would slow down the prospects for major expansion at Stansted. SSE's Brian Ross said: "It puts a halt on MAG's ambitions for a second runway at Stansted for a long time. It kicks it into the long grass." However, he was cautious about how long the legal process would take before work at Heathrow could start. "It cannot even be assumed that it is bound to happen," he said. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said that Heathrow expansion would benefit all of the UK. "The time for action is now. Heathrow is already full and the evidence shows the other London airports won't be far behind," he said. Stansted CEO Ken O'Toole welcomed the Government's decision that confirmed its support for airports looking to make best use of existing capacity. See the EADT report.
They're all at it!
Meanwhile, it seems that the 'expansion bug' has now gripped every London airport:
Heathrow's third runway will allow it to grow to from 79mppa today to 130mppa by 2030;
Gatwick has said that it plans to grow to 53mppa on its existing single runway by 2023;
Stansted current planning expansion is for growth from 26mppa today to 43mppa by 2028;
Luton has announced its plans to grow from its current 16mppa to 36-38mppa by 2040;
London City Airport has indicated that it wants its cap lifted from 6.5mppa to 8mppa; and
Southend Airport has attracted Ryanair and expects to double in size next year to 2mppa.
SSE points out that, in order to try to justify its current planning application MAG is claiming that Stansted is the "only show in town" i.e. the only London airport capable of any significant growth over the next ten years. MAG does not seem to have read any of the recent articles below:
See a Media Centre report.
See another Media Centre report.
See a Luton Council report.
See an ITV News report.
See a Mirror Group report.
Europe's airport capacity gap shrinks - slightly
Europe's airport capacity crunch will not be as bad as feared, although millions of passengers could still be left without flights, according to the Financial Times. By 2025 it is predicted that Europe's airports will fail to accommodate 300,000 flights - a gap of 2.5% between demand for 12.7m flights and capacity for 12.4m, says a report by Eurocontrol, the agency that co-ordinates air traffic control across Europe. An earlier report by Eurocontrol in 2013 predicted a capacity gap of 4 per cent, or 500,000 flights by 2025. Senior figures in the industry say the smaller gap remains a concern, with some arguing Europe faces an airport crisis as passengers endure congestion and disruptions on an "unprecedented" scale. See the Financial Times report.
Increased profits and dividends for MAG
MAG has reported a seventh consecutive year of growth in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), an increase of nearly 6% to £359m. The dividend pay-out to its shareholders has been upped by 18% to £166m. Passenger numbers at its three airports (Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands), increased by 6.7% to 58.9m. MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said spare capacity at Manchester and Stansted airports and the group's investment would allow it to meet continued demand for aviation growth both in and outside the UK. The Government's support for airports looking to make the best use of existing capacity provided a framework for growth. It was critical that it now matched its backing for Heathrow expansion with specific and practical proposals to improve rail access and maximise the potential of airports like Manchester and Stansted, he said. See the City A.M. report.
Stansted 'in need of improvement' for disabled passengers
Stansted Airport has been highlighted in a critical Civil Aviation Authority report which examined accessibility for disabled passengers at the UK's top 30 airports, 26 of which were rated "good" (including Heathrow) or "very good" (including Southend and Norwich). However Stansted was one of four UK airports criticised for falling short of the CAA's expectations for accommodating disabled passengers and has been told that it must improve. Manchester Airport came bottom of the ranking of the 30 airports. Paul Smith, consumers and markets director at the CAA said: "We are pleased that surveys show that satisfaction levels remain high and the vast majority of passengers' journeys go smoothly. The improved performance of many airports means disabled passengers should have even more confidence to travel from UK airports. However, there are still too many occasions where things go wrong. We will continue to focus our work on ensuring that standards are maintained and improved, particularly for those whose experience has not been as positive as it could have been. Where we see examples of bad practice, we will not hesitate to hold airports to account and take the necessary enforcement action." See the EADT report.
...but balks at "world's second worst" charge
In a global airport and airline performance survey covering 141 airports and 72 airlines Stansted has been ranked the world's second-worst airport, coming number 140 in the worldwide league table. Only Kuwait Airport fared worse. The survey, by AirHelp, claimed to be "one of the most comprehensive and accurate data-bases of airlines and airports of its kind." It ranked airports on a basis of best-on-time flights and customer service. Stansted managed just six out of ten for quality of service and had one of the worst ratings for passenger sentiment on Twitter, at 1.10 out of 10. EasyJet was the lowest ranked of the UK-based airlines, coming number 69 out of 72 and Ryanair was only two places higher at 67 while Jet2 came in at 61. The survey, carried out between December 2017 and March 2018, looked at on-time performance, quality of service and the processing of passenger claims for delayed and cancelled flights. For airports, it also measured sentiment on Twitter. Stansted Airport dismissed the report and described the survey as 'a self-serving exercise' designed by Airhelp to promote its claims management services. See the Mirror Group report.
SNP U-turn on APD
The Scottish Government has confirmed it will not cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) at the start of the next financial year because it would compromise devolved powers and damage the Highland's economy. With control over aviation tax being handed to the Scottish Parliament as part of the latest phase of devolution, the SNP had planned to replace APD with an Air Departure Tax (ADT), set at half the current rate. Ministers then planned to abolish the tax - which generates around £150m per year - "when circumstances allow". See the Holyrood report.
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