15th July 2020
Airport to appeal against refusal of its expansion plans
In June 2017 Manchester Airports Group (MAG) submitted initial proposals to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) for further expansion at Stansted Airport. A formal planning application was then submitted in February 2018, seeking an increase in the permitted annual passenger throughput at Stansted from the present limit of 35 million to 43 million. Stansted’s actual throughput last year was 28 million passengers and will be much lower this year due to the impact of Covid-19.
On 24 January 2020, after more than two and a half years of consideration, the UDC Planning Committee voted (by 10 votes to nil) to refuse MAG’s planning application.
Legally, MAG had six months to appeal and, after five and a half months of silence, announced on 10 July that it will submit an appeal “later this month” – i.e. at the last possible moment. This means that there will now be a costly and lengthy Public Inquiry to reconsider all the evidence. The outcome might not be known for another 18 months.
MAG now alleges that UDC did not give proper consideration to its planning application and is asking the Secretary of State to overturn the local decision. However, immediately before the vote was taken on 24 January, Stansted CEO Ken O’Toole, thanked “the UDC members and officers for the time and effort they have devoted to carefully and professionally considering our application, particularly over the past few months”.
In addition, MAG had insisted from the outset that its planning application should be determined locally rather than nationally, and that UDC was the “competent and appropriate authority” to deal with its application.
A Public Inquiry could cost UDC up to £1.7 million, which it can ill afford, especially in the current circumstances with tremendous pressure on local finances and far more important priorities.
SSE will seek to prevent this Public Inquiry with its ongoing legal challenge but if, despite its best efforts, it is unable to do so, SSE will offer every assistance to UDC in defending its position. This will include extensive expert evidence highlighting the unacceptable impacts of the proposed expansion in relation to climate change, noise, air pollution and health impacts, and the inadequate capacity of the local road and rail infrastructure. In addition, the impact of Covid-19 raises fundamental questions about the need for any airport expansion at this time.