15th April 2020
It’s time to end the uncertainty
It seems that the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), who own Stansted Airport, have not yet come to terms with the fact that Covid-19 has had a serious impact on the health of the aviation industry which is likely to last far longer than the immediate ‘lock-down’ crisis.
MAG still won’t say whether or not it will accept the decision of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), on 24 January, to refuse its planning application for further expansion at Stansted. MAG had sought approval for a throughput of 43 million passengers a year compared to last year’s 28 million and its current limit of 35 million.
Stansted has been in decline since the middle of last year and Covid-19 has decimated its business for the time being at least. Opinions differ as to how long the aviation industry will take to recover. However, it is absolutely clear that there is no urgent need for a further tranche of expansion to be approved.
Legally, MAG is allowed six months to appeal to the Secretary of State and ask him to overturn the UDC refusal. So far, three months have passed with no word from MAG as to whether or not it will appeal. This uncertainty could last another three months.
An appeal would mean a lengthy public inquiry involving barristers, consultants and other expert witnesses. It could be a year or more before the outcome was known, thereby prolonging the uncertainty. If UDC lost, it would have to pay MAG’s costs as well as its own costs. UDC has set aside £1.7million to allow for this. This money could be far better spent on assisting local people and businesses during the current crisis.
SSE has called upon MAG to respect the Uttlesford decision. MAG has always insisted on its planning application being dealt with locally rather than nationally. Just because MAG has not obtained the result it wanted should not mean that it can now simply reverse its position and ask for national intervention.
Another Iron in the Fire
Meanwhile, in case MAG presses on regardless and tries to force a public inquiry, SSE is continuing with its legal challenge and on 16th April SSE submitted a formal application to the Court of Appeal. The objective is to obtain a legal ruling which would prevent MAG’s planning application being considered by a public inquiry.