8th November 2002

Businesses underestimate the Stansted issues

Local businesses underestimate the scale of the threat posed by the expansion of Stansted Airport. This is the conclusion of Stop Stansted Expansion following discussions with chambers of commerce and other business organisations.

“Officially, most business organisations oppose airport expansion on the scale proposed by the government, but many also admit that members are not exactly rushing to the barricades,” says Stop Stansted Expansion deputy chairman, Peter Gowan.

Although the proposals are out to public consultation, the Department for Transport has not been actively drawing attention to them. The result is that most local people including many local business people are not well informed, according to Stop Stansted Expansion. For example, the decision by Uttlesford District Council to allow passenger numbers to rise to 25 million has been confused by some with the granting of permission for an additional runway.

“There is a worrying lack of information and interest among local business people, and for a number of reasons,” says Mr Gowan. “Those who don’t live in the area may feel less affected. Others are unsure where their loyalties lie because they don’t know the attitude of their suppliers or customers towards airport expansion. Some are resigned to the inevitability of airport expansion or believe it won’t happen in their lifetime. ”

To address these issues, Stop Stansted Expansion is running a series of presentations and discussions with local business organisations as well as contacting members through the organisations’ own networks. The aim is to put the scale of possible airport expansion in context – to show, for example, that with one extra runway Stansted would become the world’s largest airport.

“As far as local businesses are concerned, the knock-on effect of that level of expansion would be its impact on local infrastructure and the pressure on the local labour market, already becoming evident in an area of relatively low unemployment,” says Peter Gowan. “We want to get across the fact that without any new runways, Stansted can handle almost three times its current volume of traffic.”

Up to 82,700 additional workers would need to be recruited to service an expanded airport, which would also require the equivalent of 40 new hotels and a massive increase in the rail and road networks including a 10-lane M11, he points out. “While BAA would pay for airport expansion, meeting the cost of infrastructure would depend on the political priorities and will of the government of the day,” he adds.

While some local businesses may benefit, Stop Stansted Expansion will argue in its presentations that the majority will suffer from new competitors attracted to the area, escalation in property rental costs and severe competition for staff. Stop Stansted Expansion is also looking to local businesses to support its Red Letter Days campaign to encourage as many people as possible to write to their local MP to object to airport expansion.

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport