15th November 2018
Reaction to what campaigners say was an ‘at times farcical’ seven hour meeting on Stansted’s future
Jessia Hill – East Anglia Times
The meeting to decide whether to allow Stansted to boost its passenger capacity by 8m a year finally came to a nail-biting finish last night, but has left a bitter taste in the mouths of some of those present.
The campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) expressed dismay and disappointment that Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee granted approval for Stansted Airport’s planning application to grow to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers per annum, and accused some councillors of ‘not having done their homework’.
The UDC Planning Committee, comprising ten elected Uttlesford councillors, split right down the middle with five in favour of the application – including the Planning Committee Chairman – and five against. Where there is a split vote, the Council rulebook gives the Chairman an additional vote, and the decision was eventually made in favour of Stansted Airport’s plans.
“If this approval is allowed to stand, it would mean that Stansted could increase its flights by 44% and its passenger throughput by 66% compared to last year’s levels,” a spokesperson for the campaign group explained.
“The Planning Committee decision followed an all-day meeting which was at times farcical. SSE will now submit further representations to the Secretary of State asking him to call in the application. These further representations will include additional reasons for this, including evidence relating to the nature and conduct of yesterday’s meeting, for which there is a complete audio recording.”
SSE will also be discussing possible next steps with its legal advisers, depending to some extent on the outcome of the High Court challenge SSE is already pursuing in relation to the application.
SSE Deputy Chairman Brian Ross commented: “Of course we are disappointed to lose the argument yesterday in such a shameful fashion, with the outcome ultimately resting on the Chairman’s casting vote. It was especially galling when most of the councillors who voted in favour of approval made very little attempt to engage in the proceedings and showed little evidence of having done their homework. This was not Uttlesford District Council’s finest hour. Fortunately this is not the end of the road so we would advise Stansted Airport not to start popping the champagne corks just yet.”
But for some people in the local business community, the outcome was the cause for celebration. Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said “We are delighted that the planning committee saw sense and approved this application. Stansted is a major asset to not just Essex but also the wider UK economy and this will be enhanced as the airport develops more routes in the future. It will help secure existing jobs at the airport but also lead to the creation of new ones.”
Stansted’s own chief executive Ken O’Toole said that the decision offers London Stansted and its airline partners “the long-term clarity we need to make further investment decisions at the airport. But also, importantly, it provides the local community with the assurance that our future growth will be delivered in a measured and sustainable way,” he added.
“The combination of the strong economic health of our catchment, our available runway capacity, the £600 million investment we are making in our facilities and the continuing desire of local residents to travel by air by London Stansted, will collectively ensure that the airport has a bright future.”