6th June 2005
Averting the expansion threat is strong and real
Spirits were high amongst campaigners against the expansion of Stansted Airport today (26 June) as 1000 people came together at Stop Stansted Expansion’s (SSE’s) Runway Ramble and Grand Summer Fete to show their determination to overturn BAA’s plans for creating the world’s largest airport in their midst.
With ramblers arriving at Little Easton, near Dunmow, from early morning onwards to take part in walks ranging from two to 20 miles covering countryside and communities under threat, it was clear that their resolve to continue the fight was stronger than ever.
The mood at the fete which followed during the afternoon was buoyant too, reflecting the fact that plans for a second runway at the “airport in the countryside” are today a more distant prospect than when first announced by the Secretary of State for Transport in December 2003. This added to the sense of progress being made by SSE and its allies, pointing to the value of the community’s efforts to date in making clear the opposition to the destruction of countryside, homes and heritage to fund what is increasingly recognised as a white elephant airport.
BAA has recently admitted that not only will it fail to meet the Government’s White Paper target for a second runway in 2011-12, but that without a policy reversal by the Civil Aviation Authority to enable passengers at Gatwick and Heathrow to be charged for investment at Stansted, it would be unrealistic to expect a target date any earlier than at least 2015.
The ramble is the fourth to have been organised since proposals for expanding Stansted were put forward in a consultation launched three years ago. It has become a fixture of the SSE campaign calendar, drawing support from people living in East Anglia and the South East including many seasoned ramblers.
The determination to continue to make progress on the expansion issue was highlighted by the Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP who spoke at the fete before releasing 1000 balloons in a sponsored race signalling the intention to blow away BAA’s plans: “The pessimists told us we were fighting a hopeless cause,” he said. “Our cause has never been without justice but what has happened over the last three years shows that hope is strong and real that we can avert this environmental catastrophe.”
Meanwhile, Coronation Street star John Savident from Henham who was prevented from attending by a change in filming schedules sent a message reiterating his own support for the campaign. The Shakespearian actor known to millions as butcher “Fred Elliot” expressed disgust that expansion could even be contemplated. His words, read to the crowd by SSE Chairman Peter Sanders, called the community to arms in order to win through.
“I supported the first anti-Stansted expansion scheme all those years ago,” he said. “I deeply regret the necessity of having to support this one. There are already acres of concrete encroaching on our countryside, the stench of aviation fuel polluting our lungs and aircraft noise our ears. All this for the sake of cheap flights. We must not allow the government and BAA to further cheapen our lives. In the words of Bob Marley: Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up. Don’t give up the fight.”