13th March 2018
SSE statement response to Uttlesford District Council
The chief executive of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has sent an email to all UDC councillors defending the Council’s agreement with Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which was described by SSE yesterday as a ‘cash for favours’ arrangement. SSE stands by that description and now provides the following additional information:
1) Last week, SSE made an urgent request to the UDC Director of Public Services, as follows:
“I hope you will agree that in the interests of public trust and transparency, the level of financial contribution that has been agreed between UDC and MAG should be disclosed and I hope you will be able to provide this by return, and without requiring recourse to the FoI/EIR process. The fact that UDC has also agreed interim milestones with MAG for processing this application raises the question of whether this has influenced the setting of your deadline date of 3 April for public comments, bearing in mind that there is no statutory basis for this particular date. Again, in the interests of public trust and transparency, I hope you will agree to publish the agreement between UDC and MAG on this matter, and to do so without undue delay.”
2) There was no response to this request but SSE welcomes the fact that the Council’s Planning Policy Agreement (PPA) with MAG has now been published on the UDC website. (Note 1) Transparency would however be improved if this agreement was not redacted and if it was given more prominence rather than being placed in a planning file amongst 387 other documents (as at today’s date).
3) All the monetary sums have been blocked out in the redacted version of the agreement which UDC has published whereas Government guidelines emphasise the importance of transparency in PPA agreements, and the importance of maintaining public trust.
4) The report presented to the UDC Cabinet on 30 March 2017, seeking endorsement of PPAs, states:
“Appropriate publicity and marketing of PPAs will be undertaken. The concept will be explained to communities to help it to be understood.” (Note 2)
However, prior to SSE’s press release yesterday, what communication had there been from UDC to Parish & Town Councils and the general public and how many UDC councillors were even aware of this agreement with MAG?
5) The chief executive’s email makes no reference to the 36 meetings during 2017 and 2018 between UDC planning officers and MAG, 28 of which were said by officers to be informal and so, apparently, there was no requirement to take minutes, nor is there any reference to UDC’s refusal to disclose such minutes as may exist for the remaining eight meetings.
6) The chief executive challenges SSE’s statement about the increase in the number of flights – which was clearly stated to be against last year’s numbers – and claims that the application is not seeking to uplift the flight numbers currently approved. In fact, MAG’s own figures show that with a 35mppa cap, the maximum number of flights at Stansted would be 246,568, whereas with a 43mppa cap, the figure would be 273,966.
7) Finally, SSE is profoundly concerned that this planning application is being rushed through. The PPA confirms that the financial contribution from MAG is contingent upon a UDC commitment to meet target dates. MAG may be providing the means for the UDC planning department to move into overdrive but Parish and Town Councils, members of the public and local community organisations may not be able to keep pace. The price for an accelerated timetable is less public scrutiny and less community engagement.
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
- Brian Ross, Deputy Chairman, SSE, T 01279 814961, M 07850 937143, firstname.lastname@example.org
- SSE Campaign Office, T 01279 870558; email@example.com