| 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 March 2018
Take over planning decision or we'll see you in court, SSE tells Government
Stop Stansted Expansion has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, to notify him that unless he takes responsibility for the latest Stansted Airport planning application out of the hands of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), SSE will seek a High Court judicial review. SSE says the planning application should be determined nationally rather than locally. SSE considers that UDC is rushing through the process for determining the planning application not least because UDC has agreed with the owners of Stansted Airport, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), a deadline for determining the application of 18 July. MAG has agreed to pay UDC a sum of just under £118,000 for this 'fast track' service. All the signs are that UDC is intent on approving the planning application and that its primary focus is to secure substantial 'Section 108' funding from MAG towards local road schemes and other projects relating to the Draft Local Plan.
SSE's 36-page letter to the Secretary of State sets out the reasons why the planning application should be 'called in' by Government. SSE says that UDC has erred in law by not recognising the application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. SSE accuses UDC of doing the airport's bidding at the expense of local communities which would suffer the impacts of aircraft noise, pollution and increased traffic congestion on local roads. SSE Deputy Chairman Brian Ross said that UDC's 'cash for favours' deal with the owners of Stansted Airport did not allow adequate time for proper scrutiny of the planning application or for local views to be aired. "It has reached a point where we no longer have any confidence in the Council's ability to carry out a fair and thorough deliberation of this planning application," he said. The SSE press release of 19 March contains a link to the letter sent by SSE to the Secretary of State on the same day. Information on how to comment on the latest Stansted Airport planning application can be found here.
"Manipulative and misleading"
Before the 'cash for favours' deal was exposed, SSE revealed an earlier attempt by the airport to avoid scrutiny by the Government. The airport said in June 2017 that it would apply to increase the cap on passenger numbers from 35 million per annum (mppa) to "approximately 44.5mppa", which SSE said could easily mean 45mppa. A 10mppa increase requires the intervention of the Secretary of State and SSE says it was no surprise that last October, the airport trimmed the planned increase to 43mppa hoping to slip under the Government's radar. SSE also exposed the latest manoeuvre as not a genuine reduction in passenger numbers since all MAG did was to provide a forecast only until 2028, rather than 2029. Through a FOI request SSE has established that UDC planning officers held 36 informal meetings with the airport in 2016 and 2017 for which no minutes are available. SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: "It doesn't need a rocket scientist to work out that a 44% increase in the number of flights and a 66% increase in passengers means a lot more noise and pollution as well as more traffic on our already congested local roads. By suggesting otherwise, Stansted Airport and its owners are treating the local community as if we were all complete fools." See the SSE press release.
Fresh appeal for funds
If a Judicial Review goes ahead it would involve considerable expense and put a severe strain on SSE's financial resources, said SSE Chairman Peter Sanders in a special letter to members on 23 March. If the Secretary of State agrees to call in the planning application it would be a welcome outcome for SSE and it would save the expense of a Judicial Review. It would however trigger the start of a lengthy inquiry process which would also be costly because SSE would want to present its evidence and arguments as effectively as possible, he says. As a result, SSE has launched an appeal for funds. "Our opponents need to know that SSE, in seeking to safeguard the interests of the local community and the local environment, has not only the determination but also the financial resources to do so," said Peter Sanders.
Expansion would "create 5,000 jobs" - O'Leary
Plans by Stansted Airport to raise the current cap on the number of passengers to 43 million has been backed by Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive. He claims it would deliver significant economic benefits to the UK and the East of England region, create 5,000 new on-site jobs, improve passenger choice and convenience and boost international long-haul routes to fast-growing markets like China, India and the US. See the Business Weekly report. SSE Deputy Chairman Brian Ross highlighted the convergence of interest between Ryanair and Stansted Airport, pointing to the Department for Transport's observation last October that "Ryanair continues to dominate at Stansted, carrying 68% of the passengers in 2011 and 82% in 2016". See the Government publication page 66.
Noise reduction must match aviation growth, SSE tells CAA
Failure to ensure that aviation growth is matched by a corresponding reduction in aircraft noise levels has resulted in a dramatic rise in complaints at Stansted Airport, SSE has told the chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority. SSE chose to send a letter rather than respond to the CAA's "broad brush" online consultation that ended in January. Complaints have increased by a factor of more than ten-fold over the past five years, particularly at night where a large proportion of Stansted's night flights are large noisy cargo aircraft. SSE has argued for a number of measures to be put in place including: growth in flight numbers being conditional on unambiguous noise reduction targets being met introduction of mitigation measures and noise limits in communities living under Performance Based Navigation (PBN) flight paths; the phasing out of all night flights, leading to a complete ban at Stansted by 2030; creation of an independent noise regulator; and compensation where aviation noise cannot be brought below acceptable thresholds.
Stansted noise complaints proportionately twelve times that of Heathrow
The number of complaints from people living close enough to Stansted Airport to experience "significant community annoyance" is more than twelve times that of Heathrow, based on the ratio of complaints per resident. Noise complaints at Heathrow were 78,794 in 2017 compared with 8,411 in the same year in the far less densely populated area around Stansted. In a study of comparative populations and noise complaints for the two airports, Martin Peachey, SSE's specialist on aviation noise, explains that the Government definition of "significant community annoyance" applies to those living within the 57dB (decibel) noise contour. In 2017, Heathrow had 247,100 people within its 57dB contour compared to 2.050 people at Stansted. However, complaints as a ratio to population puts Stansted at more than 12 times that of Heathrow. "The conclusion is that the assessment of noise impacts needs a thorough overhaul and needs to take account of the fact that aircraft noise is much more intrusive where people live in rural surroundings with low background noise levels," says Martin Peachey
Ryanair stands against strikes...
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said he will take a stand against strikes and disruptions by pilots if these occur in the run-up to Easter. He said he would "never agree" to some of the pilot union demands. Ryanair recently recognised the British Airline Pilots' Association. See the Express report.
...and keeps its "No 1" claim...
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled in Ryanair's favour after complaints were received that Ryanair's claim to be "Europe's No.1 Airline" was misleading. The airline said the claim was based on numerical statistics showing that Ryanair was the world's largest airline for international flights and Europe's largest airline for international and domestic flights combined. The ASA ruled that the recent cancellation of flights which affected many of Ryanair's customers last year did not materially alter this fact. See The Metro report.
...and threatens the consequences of a hard Brexit
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary, who has repeatedly claimed that flights between Britain and continental Europe are likely to be grounded in April next year in the event of a failure to strike a Brexit deal, has warned that he will force British shareholders to sell their stock in the budget airline if there is a hard Brexit. Ryanair is already putting warnings on passengers' tickets of the risk that flights from April 1, 2019, could be cancelled. To keep his planes flying, O'Leary will need to demonstrate to European regulators that a majority of his investors are EU citizens. At present, 56% of its shareholders are European, and within that about 20% are from the UK, reports The Times.
RAF Northolt "a business airport for North West London"
Campaigners have demanded transparency about the number of commercial flights using RAF Northolt. Recent figures revealed to Parliament show that only 18% of flights during 2017 were military whereas almost 70% of flights were commercial. Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, told Parliament last year that the airport's "important military function is dwindling" and that it is now largely "a commercial airport in all but name". He says the data shows the airfield's shift to being a business airport for North West London. He is concerned that while the Ministry of Defence plans up to £45 million of renovations and runway improvements, no public consultation has taken place. The airport says this work is not connected with plans for Heathrow. See the Ealing Times repoert.
£600m upgrade for Stansted
Stansted Airport has announced the start of what it claims will be a £600m upgrade. The work will include an extra 30 check-in desks, more seating and restaurants in the departure lounge and extra parking for cars and planes in anticipation of increased demand. See the Cambridge News report.
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