15th December 2018
Airport Expansion Battle Moves to Whitehall
The decision of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) Planning Committee on 14th November to approve the expansion of Stansted Airport to a throughput of 43 million passengers per annum (mppa) is currently being reviewed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire.
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has been pressing the Secretary of State since March to “call in” this planning application and deal with it at national level. SSE has consistently argued that it is unrealistic to expect UDC to be able to deal properly with a planning application of this scale, complexity and importance. The planning application file consists of 2,352 documents amounting to 12,000 – 15,000 pages.
SSE’s concerns have proved well founded, not least because it has now emerged that the Chairman of UDC Planning Committee – whose additional casting vote resulted in the application being approved – did not even realise that it would lead to an extra 25,180 flights a year, compared to refusing the application. He had believed that approving the application would make no difference to the number of flights. There is now evidence that other Planning Committee members were under the same misapprehension.
On 10th December SSE provided the Secretary of State with a 92-page dossier, containing the evidence and the legal basis for setting aside the decision of the UDC Planning Committee and ‘calling in’ the airport planning application for examination by a Planning Inspector at a Public Inquiry. The Secretary of State is expected to announce his decision in early 2019 as to whether or not he will agree to this.
Meanwhile SSE continues to press ahead with its High Court challenge against the Secretary of State for Transport, which is based on the same underlying issue, namely, whether the current airport planning application should be determined nationally or locally.
The battle over the current airport planning application is still far from over.