19th March 2018
SSE asks Government to call-in Stansted Airport application
Call-in the Stansted Airport application – or we’ll see you in court, SSE tells Government
District Council incompetence, bias and a series of statutory planning grounds have been put to the Government as reasons why Stansted Airport expansion plans should be determined nationally rather than locally.
The criticisms come in a 36-page letter formally asking for call-in of the application, sent today (19 March) by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajiv Javid MP.
SSE has also made clear that refusal by the Secretary of State to call-in the application will trigger an application for Judicial Review in the High Court.
The request for call-in highlights SSE’s concerns that local planning authority Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has taken a blinkered approach to the rules for considering the application in its desire to do the airport’s bidding.
The Council sees potential gain for its local agenda from the application, even though this would be at the expense of not only the Uttlesford villages and market towns it is meant to serve, but communities further afield in Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire who would, for example, suffer the impacts of increased aircraft noise and air pollution, and pressures on the road and rail networks, resulting from further expansion.
A legal reading of the legislation for SSE by leading planning barrister Paul Stinchcombe QC of 39 Essex Chambers has identified that Uttlesford has erred in law in its interpretation of the rules by not recognising the application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
Stansted Airport’s owners, Manchester Airports Group, are seeking to build extra taxiways and aircraft stands and to increase the passenger throughput at Stansted to 43 million passengers per annum (mppa). By comparison, Stansted handled 25.9 mppa last year. If the application were approved, it would mean a 66% increase in passengers and a 44% increase in flights compared to 2017.
SSE is also highly critical of the attempt to drive the planning application through as quickly as possible under an agreement between MAG and UDC whereby MAG pays the Council a substantial sum (£117,781 + VAT) in return for a fast track service, and no doubt what MAG hopes will be a favourable decision. SSE’s letter to the Secretary of State refers to this agreement between MAG and UDC because, apart from limiting the time allowed for scrutiny and local consultation, the attempt to rush the application through could compromise the new over-arching airports policy for the south east currently in development.
As the call-in request makes clear, there is no pressing need for a rushed determination given that the airport already has sufficient capacity for the next five years even on its own forecasts, and for the next 15 years according to the official Government forecasts.
Finally, the poor judgement demonstrated by UDC in its handling of the planning application and consultation arrangements since expansion plans were first mooted last summer has also been detailed in an annex to the letter. Amongst the governance failings and lack of transparency which would seem to indicate UDC’s unsuitability for determining the application, the annex highlights the invidious position of the Council as a leading sponsor and supporter (alongside Stansted Airport) of the London-Stansted-Cambridge Consortium amongst whose goals is securing full use of the airport on economic grounds.
Commenting on the latest development in the expansion debacle, SSE Deputy Chairman Brian Ross said: “Uttlesford District Council has shown an appalling disregard for community interests and concerns with its ‘cash for favours’ deal with the owners of Stansted Airport not even allowing adequate time for proper scrutiny of this planning application or for local views to be aired. It has reached a point where we no longer have any confidence in the Council’s ability to carry out a fair and thorough deliberation of this planning application.”
MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN
If you would like to comment on the Stansted Airport Planning Application, use this link and click the Make a Comment button. The same webpage also shows other comments that have been made. If you wish to object, please say in your own words why you object. This will carry far more weight than the electronically-generated standard emails which the owners of Stansted Airport are using to persuade staff, customers, and suppliers to flood UDC with posts supporting the application.
- See a copy of the SSE Letter to Secretary of State 19 March 2018
- More information about Stansted Airport’s planning application to Uttlesford District Council can be found on the UDC website here.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT