31st October 2020

PRESS RELEASE – AIRPORT INQUIRY TO START IN MIDST OF PANDEMIC

See “Notes” for how you can help.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has described the decision to schedule a January start for the Public Inquiry into further expansion at Stansted Airport as “dangerous, unwise and unnecessary” in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that it could jeopardise community involvement in the hearings.

The public inquiry is being held following an appeal by Stansted’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to allow expansion of the airport to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers, compared to 28 million last year. The refusal, by the UDC Planning Committee, was by a resounding margin of 10 votes to nil.

SSE believes that a three-month deferral would be a safer and more sensible way forward, not least given the major impacts which the pandemic is having on the aviation industry.  Stansted will handle fewer than 9 million passengers this year, one third of last year’s total.  Experts say it will take five years before passenger numbers return to 2019 levels and there are some who question whether the demand for air travel will ever fully recover.

A panel of three government-appointed Inspectors will handle the Public Inquiry and, in recent weeks, there have been lengthy discussions between the Inspectors, MAG, UDC and SSE about the arrangements for how and when it should be conducted.

Despite strong objections from SSE, the start date has been set for 12 January 2021.  SSE argued that it was folly to start the Inquiry in the midst of a pandemic and in the middle of winter.  All the scientific evidence indicates higher transmission rates for this type of virus in colder weather and with less sunshine.

Furthermore, in defiance of common sense the proposed venue for the Inquiry is the Radisson Blu hotel adjacent to the airport terminal building. The hotel caters primarily for airport passengers and air crew, demonstrated by scientific evidence to be the primary vector for the transmission of Covid-19.

SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “Given the hotel’s location and its customer base, the choice of venue is staggering and demonstrates a fundamental disregard for Inquiry participants.”

“The proposed answer to the public health risks is to use video technology,” he continued.  “However, SSE does not believe this would provide either a fair or an effective means of presenting evidence and cross-examining witnesses.  We have a powerful case to argue, based on strong evidence, and it is important to the community that these airport expansion proposals are properly challenged.  We are not persuaded that video hearings can provide the level of public accessibility and transparency that a controversial Public Inquiry of this type needs to have.”

NOTES

FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT

 

Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport