2nd March 2005

BAA Spin lambasted by council leader at SSE meeting

Uttlesford District Council Leader Cllr Alan Dean last night lambasted BAA for the spin it has put on the outcome of the recent Judicial Review into the Government’s Air Transport White Paper.

Speaking at a public meeting held at Mountfitchet High School organised by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) to review the High Court ruling, Cllr Dean made clear his view of the behaviour of the airport developer towards the local community: “Instead of hiding behind the Government’s White Paper, BAA will now have to evaluate other options for a second runway at Stansted. They will also need to assess these options for their potential environmental impact.”

The Uttlesford Leader also had harsh words for BAA claims that the High Court had ruled that the second runway project was commercially viable. “The Judge did no such thing,” he said “We really do need to take much of what BAA says with a pinch of salt.”

Pointing to the cosy conspiracy between the Government and BAA which was exposed in the High Court, Cllr Dean told an audience of more than 300 people how the Judge had chastised the Government for attempting to hide the whole truth on the commercial viability issue, by saying “Government Departments should remember that their obligation to tell the truth to the Court does not mean that the Court need only be told so much of the truth as suits the Department’s case, and that inconvenient parts of the truth may be omitted from their evidence.”

The core presentation was by Peter Sanders, Chairman of SSE, who provided a detailed account of the High Court proceedings and concluded by saying “We haven’t blown the White Paper out of the water, but we have certainly blasted a few holes in it. And we shall go on blasting holes in it until it sinks or grinds to a halt.”

Mr Sanders presented the five different options for a second runway, taken from a confidential document which BAA submitted to the Government in March 2001. These options now need to be reconsidered following the High Court ruling. [see Note 1]

Mr Sanders continued: “Despite the High Court ruling, BAA continues to insist that it is on track to deliver a second runway at Stansted by 2011/12 in accordance with the White Paper timetable, but it cannot tell us where that runway will be, what the development will consist of, how it can meet the environmental criteria or even whether, as an investment, it will be able to achieve a commercial return on its own merits.”

Mr Sanders challenged BAA to remove the veil of secrecy surrounding its new expansion plans for Stansted a call echoed by Cllr Dean, who called upon BAA to “tell us what’s happening, tell us soon please, and put this in writing because this community has learned that verbal assurances cannot be relied upon.”

SSE pledged to continue its relentless campaign with further legal and planning challenges in the pipeline underpinned by the growing momentum of its City campaign, where SSE is involved in in-depth financial briefings for BAA shareholders, analysts and investors.

During a lively question and answer session following the main presentations, questions were put to a five-strong panel including SSE’s Norman Mead, Carol Barbone and Brian Ross across a range of subjects. There was particular interest in Uttlesford District Council’s commitment to ensure proper representation of community interests during consideration of any planning application made for an expansion of capacity on the existing runway, expected in November.

Cllr Dean reassured the audience that Uttlesford District Council would be both rigorous and vigorous in scrutinising the application, not least with regard to the environmental impacts of any proposals. This would be considerably more robust than had been the case in the past, Uttlesford having “learned the lessons” from the 2002 Stansted planning approval.

Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, unable to be present due to a long-standing Parliamentary commitment, sent a message of support to the meeting: “I am sure that we are all aware that the battle is far from over. However, we have demonstrated to the Government and BAA that we cannot just be pushed aside. Our arguments grow as theirs diminish. Supporters and sympathizers should take heart. With their continued determination and help behind us we can see off this second runway proposal. You can count on my voice and my energetic commitment to this cause.”

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport