2nd May 2018
Poll victory for local residents over airport computer
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has no cause to celebrate over its claim that some 650 emails have been sent to Uttlesford District Council supporting its plans to expand Stansted Airport to an annual passenger throughput of 43 million – 66% above the 25.9 million passengers handled last year.
Unsurprisingly MAG’s spin doctors do not bother to point out that 615 of the supportive responses were almost identical computer-generated emails, prompted by a letter from Stansted Chief Executive Ken O’Toole to all his employees and airport-based businesses urging them to “voice their support” for MAG’s expansion proposals for Stansted, saying:
“It is quick and easy to register your support for the application and will take two minutes. All you need to do is log onto www.ourstansted.com and complete the registration form. This will then send a letter automatically to the Council outlining why you support the plans for the airport.” [Note 1]
Even though it was said to take just two minutes to send an automatic, computer-generated email to Uttlesford District Council supporting the airport’s expansion plans only five per cent of those employed at the airport took the trouble to do that, which doesn’t say much for airport staff morale or loyalty.
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Deputy Chairman Brian Ross said “Despite MAG’s attempts to rig the system, local people have outscored the airport’s computer ‘voting’ system with more than 700 objections to MAG’s plans – all individually written. Aircraft noise, especially at night, is the biggest concern – followed by road traffic, with many respondents saying that local roads already can’t cope.” [Note 2]
Those objecting to the planning application come from far and wide, although mostly from those parts of Essex and Herts most affected by the impacts of the airport. Some 50 local Parish and Town Councils are amongst those opposing the airport’s expansion plans.
To add insult to MAG’s injury, its attempt to flood Uttlesford District Council with standard emails supporting its expansion plans may have spectacularly backfired because the computerised system which generated the standard emails failed to include the sender’s postal address – a requirement which the Council has always insisted upon. As a result, it is understood these automatic emails are to be treated as a petition, which will carry minimal weight.
On Monday (30 April) SSE sent Uttlesford District Council its own response to the MAG planning application. SSE’s 175-page response setting out the detailed grounds for refusing the application is the result of two months’ work by an expert SSE team and is now available on the SSE website. [Note 3]
If you have not yet sent your views to Uttlesford District Council on MAGs plans for expanding Stansted Airport to 43 million passengers a year, it is still not too late to do so. Councils have a legal duty to take account of all representations received right up to the determination date for any planning application. It is nevertheless advantageous all round if representations are made sooner rather than later. Simply send a short email to email@example.com quoting reference UTT/18/0460/FUL and saying – in a few sentences – why you object to the application. Remember to provide your name and full address.
Note 1: Here is a copy of the Stansted Airport CEO’s letter of 28 February to all his employees.
Note 2: To date, UDC has received 1,515 representations of which 673 support the airport planning application (615 of which are computer-generated) and 705 oppose the application. The remaining 137 are technical documents and representations which do not express an opinion either way.
Note 3: SSE’s submission to UDC on the current Stansted Airport planning application can be found here.