| 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 2016
Airport limit on compensation claims has no legal basis
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has accused Stansted Airport Ltd (STAL) of attempting to deter thousands of local families from claiming compensation for the devaluation of their homes due to airport expansion. In June, following the threat of legal action from SSE, STAL agreed to start dealing with long overdue compensation payments. However, in early July, the airport published a map showing an 'eligibility area' which included just a few hundred homes. By comparison, evidence gathered by SSE based on official Land Registry statistics shows that several thousand local homeowners should be eligible for compensation.
There is no legal basis for STAL to restrict eligibility for compensation to a shaded area on a map, says SSE. The law only requires claimants to demonstrate that the value of their property has been reduced by the adverse physical effects (such as noise and air pollution) arising from the expansion of the airport. SSE says that residents who believe they may be entitled to compensation should not be deterred by STAL's attempt to minimise claims and should seek professional advice. SSE has written to STAL asking for the evidence on which its eligibility area is based and to clarify other restrictions. SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said, "It's already beginning to look like the airport's management will need to be dragged every inch of the way to make these compensation arrangements fair and reasonable." See the SSE Press Release.
SSE forces Stansted to scrap compensation time limit
STAL's attempt (as above) to limit homeowner compensation claims to a small geographical area is the airport's latest attempt to wriggle out of its obligations to local families. Its first attempt failed when, under threat of legal action from SSE, STAL finally agreed that it could not suddenly start refusing to accept compensation claims on the grounds that they were too late, after so many years of rejecting the same compensation claims on the grounds that they were too early! SSE Deputy Chairman Brian Ross told the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee (STACC) meeting in June that it was "never too late for a sinner to repent". However, he pointed out that many local residents had died waiting for their long overdue compensation and it was now time for STAL to deal swiftly with compensation claims. See the SSE Compensation Matters page.
"Hold up your hands and pay"
One local resident who criticises the airport for delaying compensation payments, fears that new claims could take years to be settled. Scott Taylor, of Birchanger, who is confined to a wheelchair, believes he is owed compensation in relation to the home he shared with his late parents. They received compensation for the first phase of Stansted's development in the 1990s but there has been nothing since, even though the airport has tripled in size since then. Scott, who continues to live in the same family home, told the Herts & Essex Observer the airport's owners should: "Hold your hands up and pay the money and I'm sure it will help you too." See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Latest Stansted Traffic Figures
The number of passengers using Stansted Airport in the month of June 2016 increased by 6.3% compared to the same month last year but was still less than in June 2007. The number of air transport movements (ATMs) showed a much smaller increase of just 3.6%. Stansted's cargo tonnage was 4.0% up in June and is 6.7% up over the past 12 months. Over the past 12 months, a total of 23.4 million passengers used Stansted Airport, an increase of 8.9% compared to the 12 months to June 2015. However, this is still less than the number of passengers who used the airport in the 12 months to June 2007. The number of ATMs in the year to June was 162,400, a 6.6% increase compared to the 12 months to June 2015. This is almost 30,000 fewer than in the 12 months to June 2007 when Stansted handled 192,000 ATMs. The reasons for this are higher load factors (i.e. more seats filled) and an ongoing gradual increase in the average seating capacity of aircraft using Stansted. The growth in Stansted's traffic over the past three years - following several years of decline - has narrowed the gap between its actual throughput and the throughput permitted by its planning consents. However, passenger numbers still have leeway to grow 50% from their present level to 35 million passengers per annum, which is the current planning cap. See the Stansted Airport report.
"Stansted has sights on second runway"
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, the owners of Stansted Airport, said that the post-EU referendum devaluation of the pound and the expected slump in GDP growth would hit operations. "Airlines tend to grow in step with GDP," he said. "Sterling versus dollar will have an impact on passenger numbers because the money you have will not go as far and that will translate into an impact on demand." He said that Brexit would cause "a blip for between 12 and 24 months. We'll continue to grow but behind where we had expected to be." Cornish projected that Stansted would reach full capacity between 2025 and 2030, adding: "so in the next two to three years we will need to start having the appropriate dialogue with the Government over the need for a second runway. He was speaking as MAG reported a 21 per cent increase in underlying operating profits to £186 million on revenues 5% up on last year at £778 million. See The Times report.
"Better Stansted rail links, not bigger Heathrow"
Instead of expanding Heathrow or Gatwick, the government should improve rail links to Stansted Airport, argues Simon Jenkins, journalist and former chairman of The National Trust. Writing in the London Evening Stansted, Jenkins reflected: "In the '70s and '80s it was decided that London's third airport should be east or north of the city and Stansted was chosen. But the airlines hated it and it lacked a high-speed rail link, so today it is half empty. Yet it is ideally located for the reviving economy of east London and the London-Cambridge corridor. Heathrow is full, as is every London hospital, school and prison. That is why resources must be planned sensibly," he says. "Roads, railways, hospitals and schools are more crucial to the prosperity and welfare of the capital than the convenience of tourists, important though they may be... The prime minister should give Gatwick, overwhelmingly a tourist airport, its runway. He can spend a fraction of the cost of Heathrow on a better rail link for Stansted. Beyond that he can tell the airlines to make do with the capacity they have been given, and let higher prices and provincial airports take the pressure of further demand. It is not a difficult decision." See the Evening Standard report.
Airport expansion decision likely to be postponed again
Britain's decision to leave the EU and the recent upheaval in the Conservative Party leading to the appointment of Theresa May to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister, means that any decision over expansion at Heathrow, as recommended by the Airports Commission, is likely to be delayed. A decision was widely expected in July. However, the appointment of fierce Heathrow opponent Boris Johnson to a senior role in the Government is likely to complicate matters. In addition, Theresa May (Maidenhead) and new Chancellor Philip Hammond (Runnymede & Weybridge) both have constituencies close to Heathrow. In the course of his Brexit campaign, Boris Johnson renewed his call for a four-runway hub either in the Thames Estuary or at an expanded Stansted Airport as the only way to secure the new routes required to boost the UK economy. He said: "If we are to secure the connectivity we need to support our future growth and prosperity - and do so without dire impacts on public health - then we must do better than Heathrow." See the Daily Mail report.
...and where stands the new London Mayor
Sadiq Khan, who succeeded Boris as Mayor of London, was at one time a strong supporter of a third runway at Heathrow but he reversed his position in May 2015 when he announced his candidacy to become the next London Mayor. Now that he has been elected, however, Mr Khan may be about to change his position again. Within three weeks of becoming the new London Mayor, Sadiq Khan shocked environmental campaigners by announcing his intention to appoint former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis to run transport in the capital. Lord Adonis, who heads the Government's National Infrastructure Commission, has long been a strong supporter of a third Heathrow runway. See the London Assembly report.
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